We’ve all had that moment.
We’re with a group of our peers and colleagues, and we’re working on solving a meaty, challenging problem. We’ve spent a few hours talking, brainstorming, sharing, refining, and then sharing again. The post-its are on the wall and the whiteboard is getting close to capacity with compelling ideas and creative solutions. We’re all looking at the ideas we’ve generated together, combining some, maybe setting some others aside.
As we all stare at that wall together, we see it.
The right solution.
At once, we see it and feel it. We now know what we need to do to move forward.
Getting to solution was tough but satisfying work. It was a result of our team coming together, collaborating, contributing, debating, and aligning.
And if felt good. We now had an agreed-upon plan, and we were ready to get back to the office and start executing. But of course, we first had to celebrate the great work with our team.
It was a good day. And those days were common for teams before 2020. If you had a meaty problem to solve, plan to create, or just needed to get your team aligned and on the same page, you got together and figured it out together.
But in 2020 everything changed.
I don’t need to bore you with the details, but we all went virtual. At first, it was new, and a shock to the system. But then, we began to realize that we could get almost all the same things done virtually as we could in the office. We could collaborate on documents. Our in-person check-ins became Zoom, Google Meet or Teams meetings. We had pitches and client meetings screen-to-screen instead of face-to-face. We even had virtual happy hours.
We got into the virtual life. We started to think we might not need to meet in person anymore. After all there were virtual whiteboards now – why do we all need to be in the same room to solve our biggest challenges? I can get this done from the comfort of my bedroom, next to my dog, wearing my athleisure. Right?
Not so fast.
Now, we’ve learned that virtual environments can stifle creativity and complex communication.
- A study in Nature found that virtual meetings can crush creativity, finding that people in virtual meetings are more focused on the screen, which hurts the broad expansive idea generation process.
- A recent study of the pandemic work environment by Microsoft noted that “…the shift to less ‘rich’ communication media may have made it more difficult for workers to convey and process complex information.” Not only did remote working cause groups to become more siloed, but the amount of collaboration time employees spent with other groups dropped by 25 percent.
The reality is that when our creativity is limited and we collaborate less, we are less likely to come up with the big ideas that solve our most challenging problems and power our most successful strategies. Not to mention, in 2021 there was this thing called the great resignation. As a result, we’re now sometimes collaborating with people we’ve never even met in person. That’s hard.
And, that is why meeting in person is ready to make a comeback.
Please don’t misunderstand, we all agree that hybrid, distributed, and/or remote work is here to stay. But being deliberate about meeting in person for the right reason, at the right time, and in the right environment will be key to success for all of us moving forward.
In my next post, I will share more about some of the reasons you should meet in person, and some of the steps you should take to ensure the success of those meetings.