February 3, 2023

Virtual meetings can crush creativity, new study finds

4 min read

Do zoom and other forms of video interaction suppress the creative process that leads to such feats? Yes, According to a new study published on Wednesday, it is easy to come up with creative ideas personally.

“We started the project early (in 2016) because we heard from managers and executives that innovation with video interactions is one of the biggest challenges. And I will admit, I was skeptical at first. Melania Brix, an assistant professor of business, said. Marketing at Columbia Business School and its authors The study was published in the scientific journal Nature.

Brix said first Virtual interaction is thought to mimic a personal experience “very well” and it is assumed that the video conferencing was by Luddites. He spent four years. Find out if this has really affected people’s ability to create innovative ideas.

Creating ideas

It recruited 602 people, including university students and staff, and divided them into pairs to work on tasks, either personally or practically. New uses for everyday items, such as bubble wrap and a frisbee, and five identical items in each room.

“When we innovate, we have to break away from existing solutions and come up with new ideas, drawing from our knowledge extensively. The same psychological process to come up with alternative ways of using known objects. Is needed, “he explained.

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The performance of each couple was determined by how many ideas they came up with and the value of their ideas was according to the ranking of the student judges. (Example: Creative use for Frisbee: picking fruit from a tree, giving a message. Less creative: a picnic plate or hat.)

The researchers also used eye-tracking software, which revealed that virtual participants Spend more time looking at your partner directly, as opposed to looking around the room. In addition, he said that the couple who were doing video conferencing had less recollection of the things around them, which were similar to the people they were meeting in person.

“This visual focus on the screen reduces cognition. In other words, people focus more on the video, which impairs the process of creating broader, broader ideas,” Brix said.

Jay Olson, a postdoctoral scholar at McGill University in Canada who studies methods of measuring creativity, said that people often look to their surroundings to help generate ideas.

“The objects in the room could more easily signal new associations than try to create them all internally,” said Olson, who was not involved in the research. “The authors know that communicating through a computer screen can inadvertently divert attention in a way that reduces the generation of these new ideas.”

Real world results

The results were replicated in a similar but larger experiment outside the lab. Approximately 1,490 engineers working for the telecommunications infrastructure company in five different countries (Europe, the Middle East and South Asia) were randomly paired, either face to face or via video call. They were asked to come up with product ideas and select one to submit as a new product for the company.

Burke said the results were similar, although the exercise More complicated than lab-based tests, engineers knew each other well, and they were regular users of video conferencing software.

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“Field studies show that the negative effects of video conferencing on Idea Generation are not limited to simple tasks and can also work in more complex and high-tech brainstorming sessions,” he said.

“The fact that we mimic the negative impact of video conferencing on Idea Generation in our field settings suggests that the negative impact of video conferencing will probably not be weakened as people become more familiar with software like Zoom or Teams gain more experience in creating ideas and working with them. ”

But there were some important caveats. The study found that video conferencing does not interfere with all collaborative activities. Although it was easy to create ideas personally, it did not affect the ability to critically evaluate creative ideas., Like choosing the best idea from the set, Burke said.

Creativity and zoom are incompatible

Alan Langer, a professor of psychology at Harvard University and author of “On Banking an Artist: Reinventing Your Self Through Mindful Creativity,” said the new research is an important first step. However, he said it was a mistake to conclude that creativity and video conferencing were incompatible.

Whether or not we are creative during the zoom may depend on how creative we are at first and the work at hand, said Langer, who was not involved in the research. Making use of Frisbee and creating new ways of dealing with conflicts are not the same thing – a job can be done better alone than any kind of meeting.

“Maybe many of us make friends faster than Zoom.”, And creativity thrives when we are at ease. But when zooming in from home, people are probably more relaxed than experienced, “he added.

Both Olson and Langer suggest that there is a practical solution to this problem that can be tested in future research: if people were asked to spend more time looking around the room during their virtual sessions, So will they generate as many ideas as they do inside? Personal session?

Olson said managers should not rush to bring people back to the office or add more face-to-face meetings as a result of the research, although Feel free to hold a brainstorming session in person.

“Although the effects appear to be strong, this is a single study and the effects are somewhat small, which is equivalent to the difference in one or two theories between groups. Slight difference in scale effect, “Olson said.

“I wouldn’t want to see a company double their individual meetings in the hope of improving their innovation, even if it means doubling the travel time which makes them less happy – and perhaps less creative – – There will be employees. ”

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