...particularly this quote: "Yet the biggest problem in the business world is not too little but too much—too many distractions and interruptions, too many things done for the sake of form, and altogether too much busy-ness. The Dutch seem to believe that an excess of meetings is the biggest devourer of time: they talk of vergaderziekte, “meeting sickness”. However, a study last year by the McKinsey Global Institute suggests that it is e-mails: it found that highly skilled office workers spend more than a quarter of each working day writing and responding to them.
Which of these banes of modern business life is worse remains open to debate. But what is clear is that office workers are on a treadmill of pointless activity. Managers allow meetings to drag on for hours. Workers generate e-mails because it requires little effort and no thought. An entire management industry exists to spin the treadmill ever faster."
And it occurred to me that the coordination of human activity is both at the center of our ills, and the potential source of massive gains - where the next golden age will come from. All these activities - consensus-building meetings, alignment calls, opening salvos, small talk, closing transitions, live face-to-face sit-downs for projects, multiple email drafts, unwarranted cc-ing - most of them are not about communication. Most are coordination costs related to relationship- and trust-building. No wonder big companies move so slowly - all real risks are experienced at the individual level, and social and relationship risk is ever-present in very large groups and costly in effect.
If every person I interacted with was completely trustworthy, and I trusted completely every person I came into touch with, from both a competence and benevolence standpoint, I would either be dramatically more productive - or I would have dramatically more free time during each day. To cook, to bicycle, to read, sleep in until I'm rested, maybe on a beach. "For work, if you love that best. For education, for beauty, for art, for pleasure. For mumblety-peg if that's where your heart lies."
This is the cost of low levels of trust. What are the answers? I don't have them all but here are a sample:
- Surround yourself with people you trust (e.g. family, friends, close colleagues) and make them keep liking you and the situation enough to stay
- Figure out how to trust the people you're surrounded by (e.g. get to know them over drinks, meet their friends and family, learn about their background and context)
- Try to move away from people you fundamentally are unable to trust (e.g. change teams, quit your job)
- Become more trustworthy yourself (e.g. actively pursue integrity, internal consistency and high levels of empathy as values)
- Initiate trust-building protocols that accelerate the perception of you as trustworthy (e.g. empathy-driven actions without any benefit in return, blunt honest opening sequences in new relationships, showing that you trust them by taking a risk on them)
The reward - fewer calls, fewer meetings, more time in your day spent on work that requires judgment and creativity, more time spent doing the things you love with the people you love.