“Can you come to a meeting right now.” ”No, it’s almost lunch time. If I miss lunch my day will be 12 hours of uninterrupted misery.” – The Boss and DilbertInspiration hits you at unusual times. I was standing in front of the Cisco Telepresence Experience at the NBA All Star game last weekend (February 7-8) — watching a long line of fans stand in line to have virtual face-to-face meetings with players like Steve Nash and Kevin Durant, or chat with local sportscasters engaging them in trivia contests — when I realized this inspiring experience was enabling a once in a lifetime opportunity for the 900+ people who queued up for the opportunity. They could get closer to an NBA player than they ever imagined. Imagine meeting with your CEO or your customer’s?The best-known justifications for Telepresence are reductions in travel expenses and time lost in transit. But the singular benefit of this technology is the meeting experience itself; that is, the full engagement employees bring to these meetings. If reduced travel time and expense is the locomotive, engagement is the freight of the Telepresence train. Contrast this with the plethora of meetings you attend on a daily basis. How many of the meetings you attend would you classify as inspiring? How many would you call productive? Or fun? For us mere mortals, no one — and I mean no one — does a better job of demonstrating the odd zeitgeist of the numbing meeting culture than Scott Adams, the well-known creative genius behind the daily cartoon Dilbert. All of us in the knowledge worker class relate to Adam’s razor-sharp depiction of the energy-sapping loss of time and motivation resulting from bad meetings*. Thus I declare it’s time. It’s time, to paraphrase Hamlet, “to take arms against a sea of inane meetings and end it all with solutions.” Particularly during these challenging economic times, when companies are trying to save their capital, unlock their employees’ potential and drive true customer intimacy, the financial overhead of bad meetings is too expensive for any company to suffer.The Obama administration named the stimulus plan the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. I am calling my modest proposal the “Collaboration Stimulus Plan of 2009” and believe that, if diligently executed, will put $100 Billion back into the coffers of business. This capital can be used for investment in more productive pursuits than the lost luggage line. Let me start by outlining the potential of the opportunity here and in the next blog more fully detail the plan.Research by Verizon shows that U.S. companies alone hold 11-20 million meetings per day. According to the survey, professionals attended 12.2 meetings per month via travel, audio or video conferencing as well as 49.6 internal or local face-to-face meetings for a total of over 61 meetings per month. Research has also shown that up to 50 percent of this meeting time is considered wasted. Professionals in the Verizon study attending these meetings admit to daydreaming (91%) and/or missing parts of meetings (95%). A large percentage of meeting attendees (73%) say they have brought other work to meetings and 39% say they have dozed during meetings. So what is the cost to business? Let me start the U.S.If there are:- 50 million knowledge workers in the U.S ., that – Attend 2 (1-2 hour) meetings per day, with at least 1 hour lost- Multiply that by, say, $30/hour translates to – $1.5B per day in lost productivity or in a 233 workdays per year, about – $350B per year just for the U.S. alone or an estimated – $1Trillion per year worldwideHowever, I think I am only scratching the surface on the problem. If we add the costs of business travel (time lost as well as travel expense) the figure would go up. Today the average domestic business trip costs over $1000 (and triple that for international travel). Indeed, flights delays alone cost the economy over $41B per year. I posit that a change to meeting process, culture and technology can add U.S. $100 Billion of productivity to the workforce, worldwide. This is my Collaborative Stimulus Plan of 2009. Stay tuned for details!* Blogger’s note: Scott Adams and I live in the same town in the East Bay. We both worked earlier in our careers as financial analysts and have worked in the network department of a phone company. Any other resemblances are not intentional and all names have been changed to protect the innocent — mostly me.