Amazon employees sit in silence – while Tesla boss Elon Musk advocates walking out if you aren’t adding value. But how can you stop wasting your life in pointless meetings? Here’s an expert guide
Some human inventions flash into being, get a little polish and then are pretty much left alone, their users generally satisfied, or at least not so dissatisfied that they attempt to come up with an alternative. No one tries to build a better hankie, a more comforting cuddle or a dinner plate “that really works”. Yet the search for the perfect business meeting seems never-ending. The caravan instead of the boardroom, the rubber chicken that bestows the right to speak: you name it, it has been tried and generally found to suck. Now Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of Amazon, has had a go, creating what he calls “the weirdest meeting culture you will ever encounter”.
Weird? Maybe, though other words that spring to mind include “anal” and “stultifying”. As Bezos told the audience at the George W Bush Presidential Center in Dallas, he has banned the PowerPoint presentations that dominate most commercial meetings. Instead, some poor devil must spend a week or more preparing “a six-page, narratively structured memo” full of “real sentences” rather than bullet points. Everyone else must then spend the first half-hour of the meeting silently – and publicly – pondering it, before moving on to a debate. Bezos calls this “a kind of study hall”.