Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Virtual Workshop

I have been thinking about meetings a great deal lately. That is probably because I have been attending a great deal of meetings lately.

And although I see some value in these meetings, I can’t help feeling that, considering some of the social media tools that are out there, many of these meetings are unnecessary.

Information sharing, idea generating, and genuine conversation about issues ranging from day-to-day operations all the way up to Big Hairy Audacious Goal planning don’t have to be done in face-to-face meetings anymore. Those exchanges can (and are) being done online using social media tools.

Now, I have talked about Imagine!’s use of social media before. And while I consider our use of social media a great example of finding low cost/high impact ways to improve our business and service processes, I think there is so much more we can do.

Social media presents opportunities for people to share what is on their mind, when it is on their mind. Clarity of thought and information tend to be greater when a person has time to reflect on a situation, rather than being placed in the position of having to come up with ideas and solutions in an artificially created time constraint.

And let’s be honest – scheduling big meetings with multiple stakeholders can be very difficult. Not everyone can create meeting spaces and gather attendees as quickly as the folks in the video below.

Again, I don’t want to say that there is never a reason for a face-to-face meeting. But I think there are many times when using social media can make organizations more agile, productive, and innovative without having to gather everyone around the conference table. I firmly believe that as we move forward, successful organizations in both the for profit world and the not-for-profit world will bring more and more social media tools into their everyday work flows, resulting in the ability to leverage information in valuable new ways.

I also believe that those who are uncomfortable with this fundamental shift in the way we communicate risk becoming irrelevant if they can’t embrace these exciting new social media tools.

Then again, what do I know?


  1. Social media is intimidating for many people. The idea of publicly posting comments, thoughts, ideas, without understanding how others may react can be pretty off-putting to folks. Working with people who are delving into social media consider it both a potential risk to their private lives/information and also not having any boundaries for what should be posted, uncomfortable. There is also less possibility for brainstorming, bouncing around ideas when face-to-face meetings are replaced with any kind of electronic media. There is still safety in numbers, groups feel better to some people.

  2. While I can't ignore the potential of using social media for some exchanges and meetings it is atrocious to say that those who will not be able to adapt will become irrelevant. If one has had face to face contact with co-workers and clients their entire career, that is probably an area in which they really thrive. Taking that away will also eliminate the greatest part of what is done in a human service field: working closely with people. We also need to take into account that clients will lose out if they are unable to access social media. This could create an environment where the people who advocate for you seem out of touch and uncaring. Social media is a great tool, but should only be used in very limited circumstances. In a human service field, nothing less than direct human contact should be expected.

  3. Amen to the commenter's. While social networking is an interesting tool, indeed; we need to remember that a hammer doesn't build a home, and many homes are built without a hammer. Thats the joy of having an entire box 'o tools! They're there if we need them and they aren't offended if we don't use 'em (the tools of course!). I can only hope that the people with the biggest tool boxes know when to exclude a tool from a project, even if it is "new" and "futuristic."
    I'm not worried =)

  4. Apparently I have found a"button" about meeting attendance. Reiterating two points from the blog post: "I don’t want to say that there is never a reason for a face-to-face meeting", and " I can’t help feeling ... many meetings are unnecessary."
    I certainly can appreciate the benefits of face to face personal interaction. However if I want to engage 10 "influential / knowledgable" people in project or program development, one has to appreciate the time lag in meeting planning, and the potential for 10 "infuencial / knowledgable" people becoming 100 or more if I use an online tool. There are so many clever minds untapped simply because we cannot get them in the same room at the same time. If one or two of the best minds are missing, my project or program will suffer greatly. I now have an online solution. I know some people are uncomfortable with social media tools. I have been encouraged to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. If you are comfortable in numbers, then understand the greater numbers are achieved online. If you are uncomfortable with your own opinions, then the only advice I have is, get comfortable with them - then post.