By Steve Gran

If you stop to think about how technology impacts the way we work in organizations it is astounding. You will also surely notice that sometimes the technology becomes the focus instead of the basic principles of work. Thinking about and calibrating your work to these principles unlocks a path to organizational performance and results, regardless of what technology you use.
If we look to the past we can see how these principles have been applied to human work. From this we can discover insights that will help us to continuously improve regardless of what technology is being developed or utilized. Think back to the day of transparencies, early computers, projectors and the introduction of cell phones. Technology has been constantly changing how information is displayed to how we use it. But let’s return to a familiar work principle for example leverage and utilize information in all decision making or data based decisions making. Technology has certainly helped many an organization in the execution of this principle.

Information is a critical part or “life blood” of an organization. Our need for information, the speed of access and volume continues to multiply with every step technology takes. This transformation continues to impact how we share information, but even at a deeper level, the way we gather to discuss, review, plan, analyze, and most importantly make decisions around that information. Where is the organization’s data reviewed and discussed? In the old days it was in the conference room, in a meeting, or in someone’s office face to face. That is until the invention of the phone and the evolution of the conference call. So not only has technology transformed the information flow, it is also transforming way people meet in the organization.

Technology has redefined meetings. We sometimes hear, “we really do not have meetings around here”. Yet the inbox and calendar are jammed packed with activities that certainly sound like meetings. In in some organization that is all that is on everyone’s calendars. A full slate of meetings in whatever form or definition we may or may not use. So it begs the question what is the modern definition of a meeting?

To think about the definition of meeting, all we need to do is look towards the dictionary definition of the word. Again different words arise, but an essential core soon appears. The definition of meeting could be broken down to a core statement such as: two or more people gathered for a common purpose. If that was our definition how would that change the what think about the way we meet? Is an email a meeting by this definition? What about someone stopping by your office for a “drive by” that ends up being a ½ hour or longer, is that a meeting? I guess by the definition that would also be a meeting. Two or more people gathered for a common purpose. So let’s tie this definition back to technology and how it seems to have shifted our definition and context of the way we think we should be meeting.

So what comes first the technology or the thinking? We believe that in thinking first we can then purposefully pick the right technology for our organizational needs. So how do we display our information, especially information in and out of a meeting? What technology are we leveraging to enable the instant continuous flow of information? Secondly just because we have placed meetings in a certain type of historical box, look past the old definition to the core definition and ask yourself, how many meetings do I really attend in a day? Look at that next email string and you may see a meeting unfolding. And finally challenge yourself to observe your organization’s pattern of meeting and using information, and ask a simple question, is it helpful? And is the technology you are using helpful?

At the end of the day think back to those timeless principles of work. Technology will continue to grow, change, and increase speed. However, regardless of technology there will always be a need for people to come together for a common purpose, to meet and use information.

So now let’s take the technology of email and reflect on the definition of a meeting (two or more people gathered for a common purpose) and the timeless principle of work (data based decisions making) and discuss our use of email to do our work.

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