A Quick Meeting
Let�s take a look at the evolution of speed:
Walking upright: Prehistoric humans couldn�t walk quickly or far, moving about on all fours. They�d relax all day, grab a hand full of leaves when hungry, and grunt at each other. Those were the first business meetings, wherein nothing much got accomplished. One day a prehistoric chap named Homo Erectus decided to test his luck by standing upright, and discovered he could walk to his next meeting, thus creating the need for speed.
Walking fast: Prehistoric humans who succeeded at standing and walking discovered that they could get to meetings in less time by putting one foot in front of the other just a little bit more quickly. Those pioneers expanded their worlds and could increase the number of useless meetings they could attend.
Running: Very fast walkers, or runners, were the primary form of distance communication during the reign of the Roman Empire. When the king didn�t have time for a meeting but needed to communicate with his generals fast, he sent messages by runner. Sometimes the king�s service was cut off. Literally.
Telephone: Alexander Graham Bell changed the world when he invented the telephone. But did he foresee the advent of the conference call? No longer did we have to go to unproductive meetings�unproductive meetings came to us.
The automobile: Henry Ford didn�t invent the automobile, but he did develop the concept of mass production. He figured out how to build a lot of cars quickly. And the people who bought them figured out how to drive to their destinations fast. Hence, the mass production of business meetings.
The airplane: The Wright brothers had the right idea: eliminate the friction between the rubber and the road, and you�ll get to your destination still more quickly. The result: useless business meetings at great distances.
Instant coffee: Developed for those who needed their caffeine fix quickly, instant coffee enabled people to wake up, grab a cup, get in the car and get to early morning staff meetings fast.
Voicemail: No futurist ever predicted the demise of the massive �while you were out� pink slip industry. But voicemail did more than that. It enabled callers to leave 23 sequential messages indicating �I�ve called you several times but you haven�t called back� when the calls� recipient was out of town at a business meeting.
Personal computer: The PC really caused pressure. The PC created an environment wherein today�s proposal was due yesterday and next year�s budget is due at tomorrow�s budget meeting.
FedEx: The evolution of speed accelerated still more with the introduction of Federal Express. When we could �absolutely positively get it there overnight� pressure intensified. The documentation can now get there first thing in the morning so it may be reviewed before the big meeting.
Fax: Someone predicted the facsimile machine would be the doom of FedEx. But it actually marked the doom of �time to think�. We could no longer ask the FedEx courier to wait a few minutes until we got out of a brainstorming meeting. Because the deadline is now. And the next meeting�s in five minutes.
Cell phone: Prior to mobile phones, few meetings could be interrupted. Now meetings come to a halt when one participant�s cell phone rings and a �more important� matter is discussed�just a little too loudly.
E-mail: The phone, fax and FedEx didn�t seem to escalate business communication quickly enough. We expect every correspondent is sitting at their desk awaiting our messages. How many voice mail messages have you received asking, �Did you get my e-mail message?��just as you returned from a meeting?
Convergence: Telephone calls, e-mail messages, faxes, photos, games, and music. They�re now available in the palm of your hand, all in one tiny handheld device, 24/7. It�s dizzying! The evolution of the speed of communications has created what I call CAD, or �Communications Anxiety Disorder�. Anyone can reach us at any time for any reason, including the scheduling or the interruption of �urgent� business meetings.
Doctors haven�t recognized CAD yet. But once they do, I�m going to be the disorder�s volunteer poster child.
Mark S. Levit