What makes a good meeting? A high rate of info exchange and/or decisions

In the Art and Business of Online Writing, Alexander Cole describes the “rate of revelation” as a key metric for how engaging written work is: the rate at which the reader discovers new information.

What’s a metric for defining the utility of a meeting? I propose the following:

  • rate of information exchange: how much new and relevant information does each member of that meeting acquire?
  • rate of decision making: how many collective decisions were made? what is the overall impact of those decisions?

I’m of the belief that, within organisations, the most effective individuals are most effective when left to their own devices - and given maximum autonomy over their own time. Scheduled meetings go against this - they’re a demand that somebody breaks from their own schedule to align with everybody else.

In most company settings, it’s essential to have at least some company meetings. Gumroud, which proudly has NO meetings, is an outlier here. The fact that it appears to work relates to esoteric traits of the company that don’t apply to all companies.

However, ineffective meetings are a massive disruptor for a company and a fast route to mediocrity (1, 2).

There’s the argument that a 1 hour meeting x 8 people is an 8 hour cost to the company. But I don’t think this goes far enough. For 1 of those people, the 1 hour might convert a 4 hour block of work into two 1.5 hour blocks. 4 hour blocks of time in life can be rare, and the nature of work you can complete in that time can be qualitatively different (typically, more valuable) to something you can complete in 2 x 1.5 hour blocks.

If meetings are not for information exchange or decision making, what are they for? And if that’s what they’re for, why accept anything less than great performance on those metrics?