Friday Faves is our weekly blog series highlighting a few select pieces from the REG team’s reading lists. You can catch up on past Friday Faves on the archive

Workers think less creatively in Zoom meetings

Anne says: Not another article about Zoom!! No – it’s not. This article reports on a study published in the journal Nature about the impact of videoconferencing (not just Zoom) sessions on creativity. In this study, the reference is about idea generation during brainstorming style sessions using videoconferencing versus in-person sessions. There are many aspects to this study that require our attention, and some, our scrutiny. However, the insights and findings are valuable and definitely provide the basis for further research and practical implementation considerations.

The study actually started prior to the pandemic lockdowns, but of course, the lockdowns and forced remote working also formed part of the research findings and results. The study is very robust, and if you like reading research statistical analysis, you can read the full report on Nature.

The findings indicated that in-person, or face-to-face sessions generated more ideas and more creative ideas compared to videoconference sessions. The study then sought to understand the why – what’s going on? For me, this is where it gets really interesting! A huge proportion of the outcome is the impact of visual focus on cognitive processes. They found that people in a room tend to look around and notice things that can prompt idea generation. When we’re using videoconferencing we are substantially reducing visual cues for creative thought – by essentially staring at someone else’s face. (And most likely, trying to read their facial cues versus allowing the mind to wander – like daydreaming).

There’s a lengthy description in the full study on Nature that shows how the visual cues were used and measured. But for me, it also raises some other interesting challenges. If we are going to use videoconferencing for idea generation sessions, due to hybrid work practices, we need to reduce this visual focus disturbance. It raises questions about the backgrounds people apply to their videoconference program. Do we need to consider a specific background for ideation sessions? Perhaps position the computer camera further away from people so they’re not taking up the whole screen?

Perhaps, we need to design the sessions for interaction, so the activities and input from participants is subtly different from a typical videoconference meeting style. Perhaps we need to provide some pre-session individual brainstorming tasks. Perhaps we need to utilise some of the additional features, like whiteboards, within the videoconference software. There are many options for designing interactions in videoconferencing. Perhaps this research study is a good place to start to understand the differences that occur when we use online tools.

Of course, alternatively, when planning hybrid work practices, you might consider using face-to-face sessions for idea generation, and videoconferencing sessions for follow-up meetings.

We’ve always found we get high quality information during ideation sessions, for us, it’s all about design. However, the findings from this research will definitely provide some new information to refine our use of online group sessions. Get in touch if you’d like some guidance with designing videoconference idea generation style sessions!

Read:

In celebration of the internet’s true angels

Jakkii says: I loved this piece from Wired UK, celebrating the ‘givers’ of the internet – the reviewers, the people who post (actually useful) ‘how to’ content (like the Dad from Dad, how Do I? in the video above), the people who answer questions, the curators, the people who help solve problems. Because don’t we all rely on them so very, very much? After all, who hasn’t googled ‘how do I…’ and relied on someone’s youtube video or their useful text-based answer to the same question someone else once asked somewhere on the web? Who hasn’t read at least one product or venue or service’s reviews when helping make a decision as to whether to spend our hard earned money?

There are givers and takers on the internet, just as there are in life. Most of us are both: sometimes we give, and sometimes we take. It all depends on the context – and, probably, how much time we’re prepared to invest. And, at least some of the time, what we think we might get out of it. It’s not all pure altruism online, but that’s okay – we can still be genuine in wanting to add value, to help people, to educate people, to share, while knowing (or hoping) that it might help us in turn, by developing and improving our reputation or making us money.

This kind of stuff is true in our workplaces, too, only we don’t always think about it in the same way, especially when it comes to how we contribute (or don’t). A subtle shift from “what’s in it for me” to “what’s in it for WE” is useful here – what can I do to help make us all better? What can I give for the ‘we’ to take? That doesn’t just have to be giving answers, it goes for even asking the question, as visibly and as ‘publicly’ as possible, in the first place – someone else can benefit from that question (and answer) being available (and discoverable) down the track.

So whether it’s in the public sphere or in our workplaces, thank you, internet angels! Thank you for giving, for letting others take, and for helping us all learn and improve. And most recently, an especially big thank you to the people who posted videos about how to fix a broken recliner on a couch (super easy, as it turns out! And cheap!). You are indeed the best of us.

Read: https://www.wired.co.uk/article/2021-internet-angels

Friday Five

Five things we think you might find interesting this week:

Sydney Business Insights – The Future, This Week Podcast

From our colleagues at the University of Sydney Business School, this week, podcast hosts Dr Sandra Peter and Professor Kai Riemer are joined by Professor Marc Stears on the subject of the future of geopolitics. From Australia’s place in Asia to the war in Europe, they discuss new ways of thinking.

Listen: https://sbi.sydney.edu.au/the-future-of-geopolitics/


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