Lesson 4.11

Dream Team Meetings: Making Group Gatherings More Effective, Less Costly, And More Of A Pleasure

This lesson starts with a fun little video from our friend, business author Dan Pink. Below it, we’ll dig into the meat of this topic:


Key Concepts:


Great teams, with healthy cognitive friction, communicate fully.

  • As we’ve discussed earlier, “organizational silence” is worse for a group that wants to make progress than having conflict.

But meetings are a vastly over-used method of group communication.

  • Large group gatherings are only efficient means of communication in a limited number of scenarios.

  • There’s no such thing as a “1-hour meeting.” Six people in a meeting that lasts one hours is a 6-hour meeting. When you add up the total amount of human-time a meeting takes up, it puts into perspective how inefficient of a communication channel meetings often are.

  • High-performing cultures are deliberate about the objectives of their meetings.

  • There are really only a few types of scenarios where in-person group meetings truly make more sense than their alternatives:

    • Building relationships between people (bonding is best done in person, and is a legit reason to have a regular group gathering—though this is usually better paired with a ritual like a meal or activity than a conference room)

    • Resolving concerns between people (mediation of personal concerns is best done face to face)

    • Solving problems, explaining things, or deciding things that cannot be done any other way than in real time (e.g. hands-on teaching or real-time debates)

    • Getting a group pumped up (pep rallies, keynotes, and pump-up speeches are usually more energetic and effective in person—if you can even call these meetings!)

The most common scenarios groups have for meetings, however, have alternatives that are both better for clear communication and less costly:

  • Status updates / checking in [better in writing, so you can be clear and also have a historical record]

  • Information dissemination [better as mass media—in writing, video, etc. CNN doesn’t call an in-person meeting to share the news; why do we?]

  • Figuring out solutions to problems [best done as a series of one-on-one conversations to go deep and gather a diversity of information, or as work in the field / side by side at your desk—rather than tucked away in a meeting room]

  • Brainstorming ideas [research repeatedly shows that having people brainstorm on their own and add their ideas together yields better results than groups gathering to kick around ideas]

  • Often setting up meetings is a means of procrastination, of delaying having to think about something. So, you know, don’t do that!

This flowchart is a good guide to choosing the right kind of meeting for your objective (click to enlarge it):

Click to enlarge in a new window

Click to enlarge in a new window

In general, keep in mind that an effective meeting for solving problems will always have Cognitive Diversity, Cognitive Friction, and Intellectual Humility!