To meet, perchance to dream…

In Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School, author John Medina discusses the importance of sleep (Rule #7: Sleep well, think well):

Why do we sleep? It may be so that we can learn. The brain replays information learned during the day hundreds of times while we saw logs. You’d be more productive if you took an afternoon nap, too.

The “replay” of information that happens while we sleep comes, of course, in the form of dreams (or nightmares). Many of our dreams never make it to our consciousness, while those that do are often quite vivid and may plant the seed of good ideas that we can follow up on. Whether we remember the dreams or not, doesn’t matter, though; we “learn” from all of that crazy activity that takes place while we are asleep.

The typical recommendation for individuals is to get 8 hours of sleep per day – fully 1/3 of the day essentially dedicated to “learning”. Compare this to how most companies operate: maximum effort, maximum efficiency, no room for down-time. The expected amount of “sleep” for an organization? None, zero, zip.*

(In case you are wondering, I don’t consider “after hours” as sleep time since at this point the organization doesn’t really “exist”. Consider it a form of cryogenic sleep, and as Jake Sully reminds us at the beginning of Avatar, “you don’t dream in cryo.”)

The question then is, “Does an organization need to sleep? And if it does, what form would that “sleep” take?” To those questions I propose the following answers:

Yes, organizations need to sleep, and

Meetings are the organizations “sleep”

In his article Meeting of Minds, Richard Veryard talks about the costs associated with meetings:

  1. The direct cost of conducting the meeting (salaries, travel, etc)
  2. The opportunity cost of the meeting (lost productivity)
  3. The cost of not having the meeting

It’s that last one that is relevant here and Richard’s comments on it are part of what inspired me to finally write this article. He says:

Good meetings can make people more productive and creative, and help avoid wasted effort. Good meetings make the organization more intelligent – processes become more efficient, decisions get better, the organization learns more quickly – and this increases the overall added-value of the work done.

Exactly.

* A notable exception is the US Army. Most Army units operate on a 3 phase cycle: deploy, recover, train. At the risk of being overly anthropomorphic – and overly simplistic – you can roughly equate those to “go to work”, “relax in the evening”, “go to bed”.

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