We all know who we are—whether we are on the board of Universal International, in the overseas sales department of Flexitube, Inc., a member of the school management committee, on the East Hampton football team, or in Section No. Every group creates its own pool of shared knowledge, experience, judgment, and folklore.But the pool consists only of what the individuals have experienced or discussed as a group—i.e., those things which every individual knows that all the others know, too.A group of people meeting together can often produce better ideas, plans, and decisions than can a single individual, or a number of individuals, each working alone.
The original idea that one person might have come up with singly is tested, amplified, refined, and shaped by argument and discussion (which often acts on people as some sort of chemical stimulant to better performance), until it satisfies far more requirements and overcomes many more objections than it could in its original form. A meeting helps every individual understand both the collective aim of the group and the way in which his own and everyone else’s work can contribute to the group’s success. A meeting creates in all present a commitment to the decisions it makes and the objectives it pursues.Some ethologists call this capacity to share knowledge and experience among a group “the social mind,” conceiving it as a single mind dispersed among a number of skulls.They recognize that this “social mind” has a special creative power, too.A meeting still performs functions that will never be taken over by telephones, teleprinters, Xerox copiers, tape recorders, television monitors, or any other technological instruments of the information revolution.At this point, it may help us understand the meaning of meetings if we look at the six main functions that meetings will always perform better than any of the more recent communication devices. In the simplest and most basic way, a meeting defines the team, the group, or the unit. Everyone is able to look around and perceive the whole group and sense the collective identity of which he or she forms a part. A meeting is the place where the group revises, updates, and adds to what it knows .