The old way; a complex topic needs to be discussed and the agenda holder wants everyone to come together to review because it is too complex to resolve any other way; a meeting is called, which takes considerable time to coordinate attendees, time, place and agenda; all come together; usually someone is late so you wait; whoever called the meeting presents their topic; whoever is loudest takes it from there; all throw comments in as they hit them; others stare at the ceiling; and round and round it goes; usually no one is comfortable reaching a conclusion because whatever was presented is new to them and they need time to think; meeting is adjourned to be reconvened later and typically no decisions are reached. You can easily lose a day to this type of event. The better way; a complex topic is shared via a wiki, video, shared doc, google wave (I can't wait!) and everyone is asked to give it some thought and post their conclusions when ready to make a contribution; sometimes the topic is hostile or the frequency of back and forth clarifications are too many so sometimes a meeting is needed, preferably video or conference call and as a last resort physically with preferably no chairs to get too comfortable in; whatever hostility or confusion was present is quickly resolved because all involved are well versed on the topic; decisions are reached and meeting is adjourned.
I don't understand why anyone accepts being called to a meeting to discuss a topic that is too complicated to present for review beforehand. Who in their right mind is going to walk into a room, get hit with something complicated and try to reach a conclusion on the fly. And probably spend hours debating it. It just doesn't make sense to me. We have so many ways to communicate complex information quickly, easily and cost effectively and we have the means to collate responses when best for those who are considering the information to respond. When they have thought it through, reflected, and have something to weigh in on and quite possibly they don't have an opinion so they can opt out and not get distracted by whatever is happening.
I can hear it now. How do you team build, get to know each other, have face to face time, etc. etc. You get together to do just that. You socialize, have lunch, stop for a chat, whatever means of socializing with your coworkers that you prefer. This is good stuff. But it isn't the forum for complex information processing and decision making and from my perspective meetings aren't the best forum for it either.