Over the years I have sat through some extraordinarily mind-numbing presentations and meetings. I will even take responsibility for unleashing some of that torture myself and if you have been subjected to it, sorry about that. Meetings are of course what we do between the hours of 8 and 5 in an attempt to sort out that great puzzlement affectionately known as work, a.k.a, the plant, the salt mine, the pit, the ole ball and chain, the grind, hell, et al.
Putting the concept of work aside for a moment, I want to focus on one delicious and highly entertaining slice of the employment pie known as the committee. Committee meetings are in a class unto themselves and fully capable of rivaling most Geneva Convention established pain thresholds, e.g., fingernails on chalkboards, prostate massages, and Cyndi Lauper recordings.
I would be hard-pressed to isolate what is most annoying about the committee experience but I could find some global agreement and disdain for things like Power Point presentations that use the screeching tire sound effect for every blinking slide. The incessant reminder we need to find a win-win or get a buy-in. I am particularly fond of the committee chair who thinks there is value in controlling the ebb and flow of dialogue through the use of a “wait-till-your-turn-talking-gizmo” — typically a stupid Nerf stick. I am sure you can picture how good I might be at that exercise. In short, there isn’t much that I haven’t seen, heard, or smelled while serving as a member of countless committees — until today.
I attended a meeting where a design concept was being “floated.” Let me set the stage: Big meeting, big room, lots of presentation technology and a group of moderate to above average colleagues. The presenter was deep into reporting how the color of a space had been determined. He even had my undivided attention which is an immense accomplishment given that I am the King of Margin Doodlers. The concept was moving along nicely and the time came for the climatic slide revealing the new space, and — drum roll please — the color selection. Now, if you guessed something approaching an iridescent glowing pale greenish fake vomit color, you would be eligible to drop your business card in the fishbowl for the door prize. Committee meeting moments like these make me perk right up in anticipation of what might happen next. Forgive me, I am evil that way.
My gaze darted around the room in an attempt to drink in the reactions of those at the huge square table. Stone-cold, pin-drop silence. A grumbling stomach would have commanded center-stage. Finally, a barely audible voice says, “So, how did you land on that bold choice?” Proudly the presenter said, “We asked a focus group of math students and faculty to react to the question: What color is math?” Had I been asked the color of math I would have almost certainly shot back, “Black-hole black…even blacker if that is possible.” Apparently the color-wheel for math is limited to finite shades of curious slime green. Granted, I don’t have a keen eye for color swatch nuances. I learned long ago when my beautiful wife lines the kitchen table with color chips, the blindingly correct response is always, “uh-huh.”
So to the teaching point — I insist on harvesting at least one take-away from every meeting I attend. This meeting did get me to thinking about the world in a much broader sense and that perhaps everything in life is ultimately a product or association of a color choice. What color is communication? What color is boredom? What color is a yawn? What color is philosophy, ergo, what is the color of stupid? What is the color of a question? Next time you find yourself in a committee meeting battling to stay awake, ask yourself, “What color am I in?” Personally I am curious as to the color of billable time. Green perhaps?