06:45
TED@State Street Boston

David Grady: How to save the world (or at least yourself) from bad meetings

Filmed:

An epidemic of bad, inefficient, overcrowded meetings is plaguing the world’s businesses — and making workers miserable. David Grady has some ideas on how to stop it.

- Information security manager
David Grady is on a crusade to help you take back your calendar. Full bio

Picture this:
00:13
It's Monday morning,
00:14
you're at the office,
00:15
you're settling in for the day at work,
00:16
and this guy that you sort of
recognize from down the hall,
00:18
walks right into your cubicle
00:21
and he steals your chair.
00:23
Doesn't say a word —
00:24
just rolls away with it.
00:25
Doesn't give you any information
about why he took your chair
00:27
out of all the other chairs
that are out there.
00:29
Doesn't acknowledge the fact
that you might need your chair
00:31
to get some work done today.
00:34
You wouldn't stand for
it. You'd make a stink.
00:35
You'd follow that guy
back to his cubicle
00:37
and you'd say, "Why my chair?"
00:39
Okay, so now it's Tuesday morning
and you're at the office,
00:43
and a meeting invitation pops
up in your calendar.
00:47
(Laughter)
00:50
And it's from this woman who you
kind of know from down the hall,
00:51
and the subject line references some
project that you heard a little bit about.
00:54
But there's no agenda.
00:58
There's no information about why
you were invited to the meeting.
01:00
And yet you accept the
meeting invitation, and you go.
01:03
And when this highly
unproductive session is over,
01:07
you go back to your desk,
01:10
and you stand at your
desk and you say,
01:12
"Boy, I wish I had those two hours back,
01:14
like I wish I had my chair back."
01:16
(Laughter)
01:18
Every day, we allow our coworkers,
01:20
who are otherwise very,
very nice people,
01:22
to steal from us.
01:24
And I'm talking about something far
more valuable than office furniture.
01:26
I'm talking about time. Your time.
01:30
In fact, I believe that
01:33
we are in the middle
of a global epidemic
01:36
of a terrible new illness
known as MAS:
01:38
Mindless Accept Syndrome.
01:43
(Laughter)
01:46
The primary symptom of
Mindless Accept Syndrome
01:48
is just accepting a meeting invitation
the minute it pops up in your calendar.
01:50
(Laughter)
01:54
It's an involuntary reflex — ding,
click, bing — it's in your calendar,
01:55
"Gotta go, I'm already late
for a meeting." (Laughter)
01:59
Meetings are important, right?
02:02
And collaboration is key to
the success of any enterprise.
02:05
And a well-run meeting can yield
really positive, actionable results.
02:08
But between globalization
02:11
and pervasive information technology,
02:13
the way that we work
02:15
has really changed dramatically
over the last few years.
02:17
And we're miserable. (Laughter)
02:20
And we're miserable not because the
other guy can't run a good meeting,
02:23
it's because of MAS, our
Mindless Accept Syndrome,
02:27
which is a self-inflicted wound.
02:30
Actually, I have evidence to prove
that MAS is a global epidemic.
02:33
Let me tell you why.
02:39
A couple of years ago, I put a video
on Youtube, and in the video,
02:40
I acted out every terrible
conference call you've ever been on.
02:45
It goes on for about five minutes,
02:48
and it has all the things that we
hate about really bad meetings.
02:49
There's the moderator who has
no idea how to run the meeting.
02:53
There are the participants who
have no idea why they're there.
02:56
The whole thing kind of collapses
into this collaborative train wreck.
02:58
And everybody leaves very angry.
03:02
It's kind of funny.
03:05
(Laughter)
03:06
Let's take a quick look.
03:08
(Video) Our goal today is to come to an
agreement on a very important proposal.
03:10
As a group, we need to decide if —
03:14
bloop bloop —
03:16
Hi, who just joined?
03:19
Hi, it's Joe. I'm working from home today.
03:22
(Laughter)
03:25
Hi, Joe. Thanks for
joining us today, great.
03:27
I was just saying, we have a lot of people
on the call we'd like to get through,
03:30
so let's skip the roll call
03:33
and I'm gonna dive right in.
03:35
Our goal today is to come to an
agreement on a very important proposal.
03:37
As a group, we need to decide if —
03:41
bloop bloop —
03:44
(Laughter)
03:45
Hi, who just joined?
03:47
No? I thought I heard a beep. (Laughter)
03:49
Sound familiar?
03:53
Yeah, it sounds familiar
to me, too.
03:55
A couple of weeks after I put that online,
03:57
500,000 people in dozens of countries,
03:59
I mean dozens of countries,
04:02
watched this video.
04:04
And three years later, it's still getting
thousands of views every month.
04:05
It's close to about a million right now.
04:08
And in fact, some of the biggest
companies in the world,
04:10
companies that you've
heard of but I won't name,
04:12
have asked for my permission to use
this video in their new-hire training
04:14
to teach their new employees how
not to run a meeting at their company.
04:18
And if the numbers —
04:22
there are a million views and it's
being used by all these companies —
04:24
aren't enough proof that we have
a global problem with meetings,
04:26
there are the many, many thousands
04:30
of comments posted online
04:31
after the video went up.
04:33
Thousands of people wrote things like,
04:35
"OMG, that was my day today!"
04:37
"That was my day every day!"
04:39
"This is my life."
04:41
One guy wrote,
04:42
"It's funny because it's true.
04:43
Eerily, sadly, depressingly true.
04:45
It made me laugh until I cried.
04:46
And cried. And I cried some more."
04:48
(Laughter)
04:51
This poor guy said,
04:53
"My daily life until
retirement or death, sigh."
04:54
These are real quotes
04:59
and it's real sad.
05:01
A common theme running through
all of these comments online
05:02
is this fundamental belief
that we are powerless
05:05
to do anything other
than go to meetings
05:08
and suffer through these
poorly run meetings
05:10
and live to meet another day.
05:12
But the truth is, we're
not powerless at all.
05:14
In fact, the cure for MAS
is right here in our hands.
05:17
It's right at our fingertips, literally.
05:20
It's something that I call ¡No MAS!
05:22
(Laughter)
05:26
Which, if I remember my
high school Spanish,
05:28
means something like,
"Enough already, make it stop!"
05:30
Here's how No MAS
works. It's very simple.
05:33
First of all, the next time you
get a meeting invitation
05:36
that doesn't have a lot
of information in it at all,
05:39
click the tentative button!
05:42
It's okay, you're allowed,
that's why it's there.
05:44
It's right next to the accept button.
05:46
Or the maybe button, or whatever button
is there for you not to accept immediately.
05:48
Then, get in touch with the person
who asked you to the meeting.
05:51
Tell them you're very excited
to support their work,
05:55
ask them what the goal
of the meeting is,
05:58
and tell them you're interested in learning
how you can help them achieve their goal.
06:00
And if we do this often enough,
06:03
and we do it respectfully,
06:05
people might start to be
a little bit more thoughtful
06:07
about the way they put together
meeting invitations.
06:09
And you can make more thoughtful
decisions about accepting it.
06:11
People might actually start
sending out agendas. Imagine!
06:14
Or they might not have a conference call
with 12 people to talk about a status
06:17
when they could just do a quick
email and get it done with.
06:21
People just might start to change their
behavior because you changed yours.
06:24
And they just might bring
your chair back, too. (Laughter)
06:29
No MAS!
06:33
Thank you.
06:34
(Applause).
06:35

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About the Speaker:

David Grady - Information security manager
David Grady is on a crusade to help you take back your calendar.

Why you should listen

David Grady is an information security manager who believes that strong communication skills are
a necessity in today’s global economy. He has been a print journalist, a “PR guy” and a website producer, and has ghostwritten speeches and magazine articles for Fortune 500 company executives. A mid-life career change brought him into the world of information risk management, where every day he uses his communications experience to transform complex problems into understandable challenges.

More profile about the speaker
David Grady | Speaker | TED.com