Priya Parker on “How We Should Meet”

Parker has studied and written on what she calls “The Art of Gathering”.

Much of her earlier work was out the window during the pandemic.  Meeting in person was too dangerous, so we all improvised mostly with the Internet.  Overall, it worked better than I expected, but everyone knows meeting over small screens isn’t perfect. 

Now we are all struggling to figure out how to ease back into face to face activities, we are all wondering what to do.  Organizations of all kinds are trying to move to some kind of “hybrid” operation, with some activities remote, and some in person. 

As Parker writes this week,  “How should we meet?” [1] .

And, as she asks, “Who should decide?”

So, what does Sensei Priya have to say?

As usual, she has her head screwed on right. 

The basic answer is, “it depends”.  It depends on what the group needs and wants to do.  And the answer may be tricky, because different participants may have different wants and needs.

One of the best points she makes is that the best meetings, regardless of format, have a known purpose, and are designed to fit that purpose.  This means that the way to meet might be different each time.

As a student of meeting-ology Parker is eager to see organizations experiment.  If ever there was to time to try new things, it is now.  Don’t ask how to “return to the office”, she says.

“What did you long for when we couldn’t physically meet? What did you not miss and are ready to discard? What forms of meeting did you invent during the pandemic out of necessity that, surprisingly, worked?”

(From [1])

One kind of experiment she sees is for groups meet in person sometimes mainly for bonding with each other.  Besides creating work for meeting planners like Parker, this calls for flexible meeting places, and flexible organizing strategies.  Meetings do not have to always be in the office, nor always doing the same thing.

Coworking spaces are yet another way we gather.  Parker does not mention coworking spaces in her essay, but I’ll point out that flexible coworking spaces located near workers are ideal for off-campus meetings as well as remote working.  “Flexibility” is coworking’s wheelhouse!

Of course, coworking spaces are mainly about social support, about having other humans around even as you work remotely with others.  Routine coworking is a way we gather that is a shared experience of the workers, but not confined within the organization.  In fact, workers “meet” in order to create their own community, independent of companies or bosses. 

“Who decides?”  In a coworking space, the workers themselves decide.

“We have an unusual moment to experiment with the workplace. These moments don’t come along often and don’t stay open long. Let’s seize this occasion to reinvent.”

(From [1])

I would encourage organizations to think about how coworking spaces might best fit into their new “hybrid” office concepts.

  1. Priya Parker, How Should We Meet? And Who Decides?, in New York Times. 2021: New York.

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