What we've been reading: Unproductive meetings and memory loss

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Welcome to what we've been reading, the AccountingWEB editors’ weekly round-up of the stories that have caught their attention.

This week we have a slimmed down but just as entertaining instalment of what we’ve been reading (it turns out we haven’t been reading much this week!)

But what we do have after a lively Any Answers discussion is another rebuke against meeting culture, in particular pointless meetings, and we also look at a forgettable novel about memory loss.  

But this isn't just about us: we want to hear from you! Let us know what’s caught your eye this week in the comments below.  

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Francois: Reaching peak meeting efficiency


I’ve got a beef with meetings. It’s not that they shouldn’t exist. They have a purpose. But the meeting has become a reflexive response; something we just do as a knee jerk.

Again, it’s not that they’re not vital or can’t be good. It’s just that meetings are so vulnerable to sloppy human tendencies. We’ve all been in a meeting where it felt like the boss was holding court, where just one or two people spoke, or left a meeting with just a bunch of extra work and no solutions.

But these issues can be resolved, according to Steven Sinofsky from the famed VC firm Andreessen-Horowitz. Reading Sinofsky’s, rather long, post feels like reliving past trauma in certain respects. He diagnoses the myriad infuriating issues with meetings - but, thankfully, also how to transcend them.

My favourite bit: “When you don’t know what to do, don’t call a meeting,” writes Sinofsky. “The worst thing you can do is waste everyone’s time meandering towards a problem, not a solution. If you don’t know what to do, spend some time formulating a problem and proposals by walking and talking.”

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Richard: The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro

Richard Hattersley

Memory loss is a key theme in Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant. Oddly enough, memory loss also played a role in my choosing of this book, as had I remembered my disinterest in Tolkien-like fantasy I probably wouldn’t have bothered picking this book up.

As someone who thinks their memory is pretty good (except when it comes to the supermarket memory lapse: “Now did I buy Frosties last week? Ah well, I'll take five boxes.”), I was struck whilst reading how our memories influence and impact every decision during our working day.

Take, for example, how my cursed memory reminds me of my ridiculous fear of heights: No, just because I’m walking near a ledge, it doesn’t mean a gust of wind will suddenly pick up and send me plummeting.

And I’m sure your career, dear reader, will have played a different role if your memory hadn’t prompted you to avoid clients like that one standing in front of you.

Anyway, as for the novel, the mist from a she-dragon breath (bear with me here) has robbed memories from an elderly couple, yet with grievances forgotten, it has also brought peace between the Saxons and Britons, who have forgotten.

Of course, as someone averse to all things swords and sorcery, I would rather forget the parts of the story about dragons and ogres, and remember the books wonderful conclusion – away from all that epic hill walking. The ending was actually so good I've repressed all memories of the novel, except the resolution.  

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