Steve Jobs loved meetings.
He didn’t attend meetings begrudgingly; he sought them out.
He actively scheduled times to talk with people throughout his career because Jobs believed in the power of face-to-face meetings.
After reading Isaacson’s book on Jobs, this was the most surprising aspect of his process to me. The guy loved meetings.
The version of Jobs many of us have in our head is of him alone, staring off into the distance and coming up with the next big idea. But, the reality of the most productive periods of his career is very different. He spent most of his time in meetings and emailing.
The trend in many organizations is to find ways to avoid meetings and reduce emailing. Isaacson’s book and interviews reveal that Jobs did the exact opposite.
Jobs Focused on Meetings and Email
Meetings and emails would probably top the list of things most people hate about their day. Jobs instead embraced them and spent most of his day at the office in meetings. He was also famous for taking people on walks around Apple’s campus or into town to get lunch and talk.
Jobs on how big of a role meetings and email are in his life during a 1999 interview with Time magazine,
When reading the book it was clear the value Jobs put on ‘thinking’ in his life. To have meetings and emailing be mentioned in the same sentence shows the priority these activities had in his workday.
Jobs Viewed Meetings As a Powerful Way to Solve Problems
The trend through the book is that the further Jobs progressed in his career the more meetings he had. The other trend was he seemed to enjoy them more as he grew older.
In this video he describes with glee at 1:34, “What I do all day is meet with teams.”
Meetings have gotten a bad rap in today’s workplace. I love how jobs talks about meetings being a place to work on ideas, solve problems and have “wonderful arguments”.
Famous Weekly Meetings at Apple
Details on 2 weekly meetings Jobs ran at Apple show how he bent the rules and traditional formats to his will.
The Monday Morning Exec Team Meeting
A complete review of the business…every week.
Beginning his second stint at Apple, Jobs instituted a 3-hour Monday morning meeting with the 10 members of the Executive team. He described these Monday meetings in 2008, to Fortune,
Can you imagine reviewing every aspect of the business every week?! This is almost unimaginable for most businesses today.
The Wednesday Marketing Meeting
No agenda, no PowerPoint.
Jobs would meet every Wednesday afternoon with his marketing team and agency. These meetings would last hours.
The famous ‘silhouette’ iPod ad campaign in the early 2000’s were brainstormed and developed in these meetings.
Most meetings there was no agenda, just open conversation about ongoing projects and what was next.
There was one rule though, no slide presentations.
Watch Jobs Run a Brainstorm Session
Jobs also loved to get his team away from the office. He often went on retreats with his top employees where they would focus on having meetings for days at a time.
This video is from a documentary following Jobs as he leads a NeXT company retreat. It’s a unique look at the dynamics between Jobs and his team.
Think Differently About Meetings
Jobs was able to make meetings a time when problems were solved and people were inspired. Rethinking your organizations attitude towards meetings can lead to creative solutions from collective thought.
Jobs views on meetings to consider when designing your own process:
- Don't rush. Jobs' meetings would often go on for hours.
- Have a meeting without an agenda and let ideas flow freely.
- Restrict the use of slide presentations in favor of open conversation.
- Create a meeting environment that encourages 'wonderful arguments'.
- Don't be afraid to schedule a lot of meetings, they can be a great way to keep everyone on the same page and solve problems.