What makes unconferences and the like so popular is that they give attendees a voice in the discussions. No more being talked at or issued orders. It's about conversations and contributions.
Informal conversations, according to Tony Golsby-Smith, may be just what companies need more than meetings.
"The best way to energize thinking is to hold conversations rather than meetings," Golsby-Smith wrote on the Harvard Business Review blog. "In our personal lives, we are used to talking openly with one another, but most organizations have failed to capitalize on the power of conversation in a business setting."
From my personal experience, I'm happier with conversations than meetings, which can be too formal and hierarchy based. When I'm having a conversation with my boss, I feel like I'm a business owner in the company and not just another Post-it note on a white board.
"A conversation is democratic," Golsby-Smith wrote. "In a conversation, no single person holds forth while everyone else nods sleepily. Instead, the dialogue bounces around the room as participants design a new idea together."
Golsby-Smith doesn't suggest you throw out meetings altogether; just have more conversations and see how quickly your employees solve problems and how more engaged they are in their work.
"Most employees don't have objectives that inspire them deeply enough or tie them to the organization's purposes," Golsby-Smith wrote in a reply to a commenter. "The organization tells them what to do, and this does not inspire deep commitment. But a conversation which opens space for employees to explore how they can add value will really connect them to the organization. My goal is not to humanize conversations—it is to humanize organisations."