If Picasso had your schedule, we’d never have heard of him

Nov 9, 2011

You’re going to way too many meetings.And yes, I do mean you. In fact, I’m thinking about you as I’m writing this. It’s exactly 5.27am and I can picture your schedule for the rest of the day. All those meetings – in your office, in their office, in meeting rooms, ‘conferenced in’, synchronous, asynchronous, vital, tedious, overlapping and running long…always running long.

Look, meetings are great and all – they get stuff done to a degree, and they give us a sense of being part of more than just a lonely daily grind, but the fact is that Michelangelo didn’t produce a single great work of art during a meeting (it’s true – I checked in Wikipedia). Nor, so far as we know, did Picasso*, Hemingway or F Scott Fitzgerald. Even those titans from meetings-ville (otherwise known as Hollywood) like Stephen Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola and Marty Scorsese, beset with meetings as they are, produced their masterpieces – gulp – on the set, not in the meetings.

Vince Lombardi, Bill Walsh, Tom Landry, Alex Ferguson and Bill Shankly sure had meetings, but is that how you remember them? Or is it running, sitting, standing, shouting, coaching, pleading, growling and mesmerizing their team to victory, season after season after season? Churchill and Roosevelt held many meetings during the war, often at great personal expense to their safety, but the war was actually won in real time, on the battlefield.

The common thread here – and it’s true in business just as much as it is in entertainment, sports, politics and war – is that meetings are only useful insomuch as they provide fodder for real action in the arena. They have no validity in and of themselves.

If Picasso, Lombardi, Scorsese or Churchill had your schedule, we’d never have heard of them. You’re going to too many meetings. Fix it.

* Picasso was in fact known for producing some great ‘doodles’ (can you call something Picasso drew, a ‘doodle’?) during meetings, particularly if they were held in restaurants, but I’m pretty sure they were produced in rebellion against the meeting, not in celebration of it.