Last week, during my budget meeting, I got to “see” a great tool that our finance officer had put together. It was a spreadsheet, true, but anyone that has worked with really complex ones knows that a properly designed sheet that has every reference done just right and provides the right data is as valuable as the $10,000 server software running on the $15,000 server in the data center.
What was weird is that, after being told of this great file, I was given a paper copy of what it looks like. I didn’t get to see any of its dynamic nature. I didn’t get to punch in my numbers and see how my proposal and/or its variants affects other parts of the school. I didn’t get to interact with it. It was an inherently digital artifact in analog form.
This struck me as a classic misalignment of the traditional meeting room and the digital commons (or some small version of it). Meeting rooms are about handing around stacks of paper, scribbling down notes, and then (hopefully) filing all that away in a place you can find later.
Working together in a digital commons is about interacting with files such as the one described, looking at different scenarios and sharing information via various collaboration tools (maybe I could import the data quickly via a cloud-based sharing tool. Or have it already in that tool and available as part of the numerous other cloud-based budget folders shared to the finance officer). Taking notes would be done on, say, a tablet, where one does direct, digital markup of the original proposal.
Everything stays digital.
Not every meeting should go this way. But one that is based around a dynamic, digital file…that probably should.