December 12, 2014
Interviews: Alison Levine on Business and Books
"Why, oh why do businesses schedule so many conference
calls? These calls are a total productivity killer and 99% of the time they are
totally unnecessary and are a waste of everyone's time."
For part three of our Thinker in Residence series with Alison Levine, author of On the Edge, she answers our questions about business and books, and hints at where she might head next with her writing.
What is the one unanswered question about business you are most interested in answering?
Why, oh why do businesses schedule so many conference calls? These calls are a total productivity killer and 99% of the time they are totally unnecessary and are a waste of everyone's time. They made sense a few decades ago, but this is an outdated form of communication and it needs to go away. It's almost 2015. There's this new thing called email that works really well for getting information to groups of people. I understand that we still need to remain "in-touch" with those we do business with and I know that's important, but pulling a half dozen people from four different time zones away from their desks (or dinner-tables, or beds) to go over something that could be handled in a brief email is just not the way to improve business and increase productivity. Conference calls should be reserved for when a discussion needs to take place between multiple parties. It does not need to happen to simply go over an agenda or a memo that everyone has already received in writing. I probably get sucked into these calls with various businesses a couple of times a week and am usually left scratching my head and wondering, "how do you people ever get anything done?" Hey America—want to beat the Chinese? Start by eliminating 95% of the conference calls!
What book has influenced your work the most?
Gen (ret.) Tom Kolditz' In Extremis Leadership. Tom is an expert on what it takes to lead teams when lives are on the line. I learned things from him that changed the way I approached team-building on my various mountaineering and polar expeditions. Tom is currently the head of the leadership department at the Yale School of Management.
What is the book you wish you had written (or admire the most) and why?
This book does not exist yet, but it should absolutely be published and it's called Death by Conference Call. Maybe it'll be my next book and I will get Pat Lencioni to do the foreword. I have a feeling he would approve.
What book are you reading right now?
Right now I am reading Rejection Proof by Jia Jiang. Never heard of it? That's because it doesn't come out until next spring.
I was lucky enough to get an advance copy and I am loving it so far. It's all about how to overcome the fear of rejection and after reading the first half of it I am already thinking about all of the events in my life that would have had different outcomes had I simply been able to see rejection for what it is (Jiang explains that it is nothing more than one person's opinion) and ask the right follow-up questions. I want some do-overs!
to beat the Chinese? Start by eliminating 95% of the conference calls!"
Previously:Read our take on On the Edge, and follow up with our Q&A with Alison Levine on some of the major themes in the book.
Next:Pick up a copy of On the Edge and follow her online at @Levine_Alison.
About Dylan Schleicher
Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books, and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.