The Rube Goldberg Effect*Meeting Tech

I love technology –

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Meeting Room 3325A

Big tables, small tables, fat tables, round tables, square tables, long tables, high tables, short tables.  

I have seen rooms with advanced video tech.

I have seen rooms where none give a heck.

I have seen meeting rooms designed for the future.

I have seen rooms that require a suture.

You know what is amazing about meetings in meeting rooms? 

First, they are for meetings, you know, with people.  Talking to each other and having an exchange of ideas.  Conversation with a purpose.


Someone always brings a pen and paper.   

Pen and paper are older than the most legacy tablet or computer.  Pen and paper are older than your cell phone or your AI.   Pen and paper are so old and so out of date that these should have been upgraded years ago. Right?

They weren’t though.   You find it interesting that you go to any conference including technology company conferences and meetings and they offer you a pen and paper.  Most companies at trade shows give you pens.   What’s even more interesting is they historically try new things like flash drives or little lights,  or other things but still wind up with pen and paper.

You know what is more interesting?  You can put a pen and paper in a closet or a desk and pick it up years later and it will still work.  It will still do the job! It doesn’t actually require an update or a modification.  It doesn’t require enhancement and I don’t need to wait for it to update before I can use it.  It doesn’t require more resources.  It doesn’t need a special environment with dependencies.   I don’t have to go to some virtual remote location to do anything with it.

I just take it out and use it.  

If I think about meetings 10 years ago vs now in a global environment, I assert that meetings are less productive overall today.

Here is why:

  1. Meetings start late because people can’t figure out room technology.
  2. Meetings start late because people can’t figure out how-to video or dial in or use the collaboration technology of the hosting organization.
  3. Meetings aren’t as effective because people are multi-tasking while at the meeting. (I was in a meeting just two days ago where the person said “happy to take this call but if I am distracted it is because I am on a conference call, but keep talking, you are more important to me right now.”
  4. Room technologies are complicated and don’t always work properly, the meetings get jammed up because of technical issues beyond just “not knowing” how to initiate or work the equipment.
  5. Technology standards don’t apply across the board.  thI have a D-ring, an o-ring, and every-ting ring and it still doesn’t work.

The list goes on and on but you want to know why this happens?  Because our technology hasn’t evolved to the point in which we gain the simplicity and utility of the pen and paper.  Companies have us buying new devices and technologies in less than three-year cycles now.   The promise is more and better but I ask you, is the result more and better?

Yes, I have a digital pen and IPad and they are terrible.   Yes, I have a Surface with a pen and I don’t use it because it is horrible.  When I rarely see people use the Surface pen, I have to ask them how they like it.  Many times, they have a pen and paper as a back-up.  I’d say with the Surface Hub 2 Microsoft got smart with copying a physical marker on a physical whiteboard.

Does anyone outside of me wonder why we would spend thousands of dollars to buy, configure, control, lockdown, distribute, support, update, upgrade and replace an electronic device that at the core does what something for $5.99 at Walmart will do?

It makes things so much easier?  For who? For what purpose? People have been collaborating in a globally connected world for years.  These technologies aren’t simple and they aren’t creating value, they are creating cost.

How about taking the “meeting room” challenge?

How about setting up two meeting rooms, one of the rooms has pens, paper, old whiteboard with whiteboard markers, old-style conference room phone plugged into the oldest phone system you have available.

The second meeting room uses the latest and greatest of everything you have available.

Now here are some basic rules.  With the first meeting room, people can’t use their personal phones as they need to pay attention to the meeting.  They can’t use their laptops or tablet in the meeting but they can use a pen and paper.

When the meeting is set up, it has to use a dial-in conference number.  For those on the phone that can’t see, depending on the nature of the meeting, they need to have at least a little information about what the heck they are meeting about pre-written and sent to them.

For the second meeting room, anything goes.  Just do what you normally do.

What do you think will happen?

To those who say that I don’t get it.  Here is a thought.   Yesterday, we downloaded Madden 20 on the XBOX One, it was somewhere upwards of 50 GB.  I had to add more storage to the XBOX and I need two accounts and subscriptions to play.   It took hours to download, then configure and get it going.  It is very complicated and there is a lot of learning that has to take place.

In the old arcade machine and on practically any old device today, I can fire up Tecmo Bowl and get going in 30 seconds, no subscription, no advanced degree, just fun.  If they changed the names of the players and updated the Jersey’s it would still be as fun.

This is the fundamental nature of our new norms.  We have traded simplicity and practicality for the promise of something grande.  The thing is, most people don’t use technologies for all they offer today.  They use the most practical aspects.

Simple, effective, useful and practical.  


What do you think?