Issue #75
#75 - The Future of Work Has Better Meetings
July 14, 2023

Hi folks,

In January this year, we highlighted that Shopify, the Canadian firm whose software powers thousands of e-commerce sites, had unilaterally purged 12,000 recurring meetings from its calendars:

This week, Shopify's latest move to rid itself of meetings is the perfect segue to explore how one of work's most enduring (and anger-inducing) features -- meetings -- are evolving in real-time. It turns out a host of new software is already impacting both the quantity and content of meetings. We look at how, and then zoom in on a prediction for how AI will radically transform the way we work; one that excites us, and prompts us to ask hard questions at the same time.

🎯 Story #1 - This week, Shopify unveiled a new calendaring feature: every time an employee goes to schedule a meeting, the calendar will calculate and show the financial cost of inviting the meeting's attendees. 😮

🎯 Story #2 -
Shopify's announcement is a good excuse to delve into a new crop of meeting software companies. Here we dig into some of the really neat functionality that a few of these cutting-edge tools offer.
🎯 Story #3 - The software in Story #2 is already "out there", being trialed by hundreds of organizations. What happens to meetings as we know them once more of this tech is built, tested and improved upon, and as the AI behind them becomes more powerful? Our last Story is a prediction about just that.

Thanks for reading and exploring with us -- and have a fantastic week!

Aki + Usman


#NoMoreMeetings #Values #Branding

Shopify does not like meetings, y'all.

Kudos to them for taking big steps to do something about it. These moves strike us not just as bold experiments, but as fantastic, high-visibility branding and differentiation: the company's maniacal focus on meetings might strike you as odd; or you might think it's the best thing since sliced bread. Either way, the firm is signaling loudly to its team and to prospective hires: "This is who we are, this is what we value, this is what it will be like if you work here." Smart. 🤓

(By the way, the tool uses an average blend of salaries to compute meeting cost, based on the levels of the employees invited to attend. So it's worth noting that even though compensation is still a touchy and emotional work topic, the salary visibility required to build this feature is not the focus of coverage or discussion. Which to us is another sign that salary continues to become a less taboo subject).


#SmarterMeetings #Tools #AI

Aydin Mirzaee, above, is building Fellow, the tech behind the meeting cost calculation in Shopify's calendars. Per his Tweet ⬆️, the app also allows users to create "no meeting days", and its AI can generate an agenda, optimize for the right attendees, provide meeting feedback, and assign action items. 🎯

But Fellow isn't the only fish in the calendaring sea: there are dozens of startups experimenting right now with different features -- AI-driven and otherwise -- to make our meetings more intentional, productive and efficient. David Shim is building which touts itself as "your Chief Meeting Officer". In addition to calculating a meeting cost, it lets users schedule meetings based on optimal times for engagement, and claims to predict the "outcome" of the meeting based on how long the meeting goes and the # of participants.

"But wait -- that's not all, folks!" also uses AI to generate meeting transcripts, meeting summaries, and meeting highlights; its analytics dashboard grades the overall meeting, and provides metrics on meeting sentiment, meeting engagement, and "on-time" rate. And the tool uses this data to generate recommendations for optimizing and improving your recurring meetings. (Surely there's a point -- or a low enough meeting score -- at which the tool asks: "Do you really need this meeting?" 😛)

It will be fun to track which software and features get traction, and how the calendaring giants -- Microsoft, Google, et al -- might leverage their AI expertise to offer this kind of functionality to customers. For now though, even this brief dive into meeting tech is a reminder that AI will come at us fast, and that it will have huge impact on the way we work.


#BetterMeetings #AI #IntelligentOrgs #MakingWorkSmarterVsMakingWorkBetter

We've featured Scott Belsky's writing before, and we're likely to see it again given how thoughtfully he opines on work and technology. His quote above is from an essay exploring how we're transitioning, quickly, from the novelty of AI to its unexpected impacts.

Per Scott, meetings are one example:

We all know how expensive and inefficient meetings are, and we all know how unprepared and ineffective managers can be. How might new technology transform the way we meet and manage?

“Meetings” will be deconstructed from the hot random mess they typically are, liberating time and vastly improving the productivity of gathering people offline. If you believe that time is the most valuable asset in a company, then meetings are every company’s most expensive activity.
The most worthwhile meetings are either super small and focused on solving a specific problem, or are incredibly contentious. Passionate debate representing very different approaches to tough problems is humans at their best.
So, imagine a world where the problems to be solved are 10x more clear, where peoples’ ideas and positions are clearly classified and presented upfront, and meetings are only scheduled to debate as opposed to commentate and summarize.
With the rise of automatic transcription and AI analysis, some other startups are attempting to measure and score meetings (and participants) to offer an audit and feedback loop.

Indeed, Story #1 and Story #2 of this newsletter are real-time proof that this is materializing. And there is no doubt: Scott is here for it.

To be clear, we are too. After all, who will miss asking, "Who's taking notes for this meeting?", followed by the usual delegation of that task to a junior -- and all-too-often female -- member of a team? Automated note-taking is just one example of the many, many benefits these tools will enable.

As well, the breaking down of a meeting into its component parts, and the scoring of different aspects of it that Scott predicts, will lead to tons of efficiency. Tons of time and cost savings. Profits will likely increase, on average. And these are by-and-large good things.

On the other hand, we wonder: at what point does engineering a meeting down to-the-minute become over-engineering a meeting? Does there come a point at which scoring every aspect of a meeting just winds up...exhausting us?

What's more -- intelligent work, working smarter, and doing more with less is not necessarily the same thing as better work. And our chief concern here at TalentStories is better work. That's what we're here for.

Which makes the true test of this next phase of technology-driven work -- a phase which is clearly upon us -- that it makes work both more efficient AND more enjoyable, for more of us, than the last. ✌️

Thanks for reading. 🙏🏻

Work moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.
Join over 1,000 subscribers — sign up today for free.
© 2021 TalentStories, Inc. All rights reserved.