Driving home from work last week, I heard a story on NPR’s Marketplace about how a year after the Tunisian revolution, people were still protesting in the streets. The prevailing feeling, the commentator said, was that even though the government had been overthrown, nothing had changed.
“I have a Master’s degree in English and I’m still unemployed five years,” said one Tunisian man. If you read my last post, you’ll understand why this struck a nerve. But it also reminded me that a lot of Americans are in that same position — overeducated, underemployed and annoyed at the stagnant position our economy is in.
More than a year ago, a group of people upset with the bank bailouts decided to occupy Wall Street. In major cities across America, #occupy movements popped up like McDonald’s franchises. There were murmurs that maybe this was some kind of American version of the Arab Spring. Unlike the Tea Party movement, which was born of the same disgust with government waste and financial abuse but leaned towards the other end of the political spectrum, the #occupy movement garnered a lot of positive press. Even meetings publications started talking about how we should #occupy our old meetings format to drive change.
But you can’t #occupy change. And anyone who’s seen footage of their general assemblies can tell you why.
Watch this and see if you can guess why I think they’ll end up being, at most, a footnote in the annals of history:
On Quora, I mentioned that I found this kind of group chanting (and spirit fingering) creepy. It was explained to me that the intention was to act like a human microphone so people throughout the crowd could hear what was going on. Because they “are the 99 percent,” their focus is including everyone and valuing the wisdom of the group over the value of an individual’s contribution. It doesn’t matter what the majority thinks, if there’s a portion of the crowd that’s unhappy, no motion goes forward because it might divide opinion. Going back and forth to hear everyone’s opinion on one topic before anything happens can take hours because they want unanimous consensus. It’s quite possible they might reopen something for discussion after it’s been shut down and dismissed because someone is dissatisfied with the outcome.
Although I fully understand the intent and political statement they’re attempting to make, this sounds like a board meeting from hell.
There’s a reason why our founding fathers decided to create a republic rather than a democracy. They also originally limited the privilege of voting to people who owned land.
If you’ve ever watched reality TV, you know why. It’s because — and I know this isn’t politically correct — not everyone is blessed with brains, drive and ability. There are a lot of shiftless, selfish, stupid people out there who are easily led but lack the cojones to lead. And although the trappings of civilization and prevailing mores do change with the times, people never really do. The founding fathers felt that if you didn’t at least own property that could be taxed, you didn’t have enough skin in the game to make an informed decision.
The American Revolution — like many revolutions — wasn’t planned by committee. And it certainly wasn’t a unanimous decision supported by everyone that it was going to affect. It — like many revolutions before and since — involved a small group of people agitating for change, creating a plan of action and assigning out responsibilities and deadlines for getting things done.
In short, every successful revolution has been proceeded by a series of incredibly effective meetings.
So rather than trying to #occupy change, make things happen. If you’re not sure how to do that, here are five steps that will make any meeting more effective and 12 things you can do right now that will revolutionize the meetings industry. If you have any more ideas about it, please share them below.