Tuesday, July 28, 2009

"Should we be concerned about people 'wasting' too much time using Inkling?"

A post in the New York Time's Freakanomics blog really struck a chord with me today. And it was actually commentary on a recent Paul Graham post about meetings in companies, so I wanted to share some thoughts of my own.

Because Inkling seems a bit like a game, I am often asked if companies have had problems with employees "wasting too much time" using Inkling and is there a way to have "trading hours" in the application to limit this. (No there isn't and I doubt there ever will be.)

I know why this question comes up - because Inkling is something new and unconventional, but I always privately chuckle at this question because I think back to my days working in a large company and remember how many meetings I sat in. Countless, multi-hour, meetings that looking back, were more often than not, a complete waste of time. So which is worse - spending 30 minutes per week in Inkling where you're efficiently expressing what you think about a wide range of issues, or 2 to 4 hours per day or more in meetings?

Even though I am out of the large company environment, since I am regularly talking to people about Inkling, I still spend a fair amount of time in meetings. As Graham points out, this is pretty disruptive to my productivity and I find I often don't get much "real work" done until "business hours" are over. Talking to friends, they live the same way: meetings all day, come home, eat dinner, then back to work to make up for all the time they were in meetings. Yuck.

I don't think many would disagree that Inkling is a more efficient way of collecting information (especially from a large number of people) than a meeting, but could that actually translate to fewer or shorter meetings?

Take how risk management is handled on projects across any number of industries. Most sizable projects maintain some sort of "issues log" where they identify what the project risks are and what mitigating actions they're taking. Many a meeting are held to discuss what risks are likely, which aren't, and how they should be dealt with.

In Inkling, you're already expressing your opinion on those questions without the need for lots and lots of meetings. And you can update your opinion at any time. In fact, ask about all your major project risks in Inkling and you now have a prioritized list of risks according to the likelihood they will occur:

Will we meet our deadline to complete QA testing?18% chance
Will the supplier be able to fulfill the complete order on time?76% chance
Will the cost/benefit analysis be below the threshold of moving forward with development?92% chance

Looks like QA testing is in the most trouble. Might be time for a meeting! But at least there is a higher likelihood that meeting can be more focused. This could translate to a shorter meeting time which most importantly translates to more time to actually work on improving the chances that testing gets done on time, or minimally a resetting of expectations.

So can prediction markets reduce the number of meetings? Given today's corporate culture, I would never be so bold to make that statement (be sure to read Paul's full post about some ideas to try, regardless.) But can they increase the quality of meetings by proving valuable, actionable input to what is being discussed? Most definitely.


nate said...

"The way to show you care: do not request a meeting with me; take one away instead." - Liz Danzico

Unknown said...

I think what inlinking probably best offers in terms of business intelligence is the fact that you can get the right information at the right time and in the right format. Meetings can be great for getting the goals etc. squared away, but in terms of deliberating over other items such as data, I don't think that BI will have a huge impact on meeting length, just productivity :)