Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Meetings are not always toxic

I'm a big fan of 37signals in general, but I remember a time when I went a little overboard with youthful zealotry for one of their philosophical tenets: meetings are toxic.

Back then, my business partner Steve and I had just landed our first major client, and this client asked for a kick-off meeting.

I curtly dismissed it, telling them I didn't need a meeting — leaving them baffled with my strange behavior (and Steve smacking his forehead).

Since then, I've found kick-off meetings with partner companies and clients to be crucial for greasing the wheels of personal exchange. It gets people talking to each other, which is worth pursuing because cross-company communication is a tricky thing. Plus, the stakes are higher: if you have to coordinate with another company, chances are that you're working on something pretty important. I've found in the vast majority of cases that it doesn't take extensive preparation to the standard I would expect of myself if I were to prepare for an intra-company meeting. People just like to talk and get a feel for each other. If meetings and conference calls are good for anything, they at least open up the communications channels.

After thinking about it for a bit, I realized that I initially learned to conduct business in a contrarian way, since I got most of my tips from the Web. But since then I've begun incorporating more traditional business practices because that's how most people still do business. I have a hunch that most people still do business "the old way" because it works.

Am I anxious that I could be blindly following new ideologies or anything that remotely seems to make sense, to my detriment? Would I have been better off doing business the traditional way and then finding out about these counter-cultural methods? I don't think so. Whichever end of the spectrum I may have started on, the important thing is to continually evaluate the merits of each idea I encounter, whether old or new, and knowing why I do things the way I do. The truth lies somewhere in the middle, and it's reachable starting from either side.

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