“Do we meet face to face or do a video call?” This question will remain for many, even if the coronavirus joins the ranks of endemic pathogens. Surveys show that many employees would like to continue working more than their desks at home. Big drawback: creativity suffers when speaking on screen. Melanie Brooks of Columbia University and Jonathan Leff of Stanford University reached the conclusion in the journal Nature..
First, about 300 test pairs were asked to consider how to use a Frisbee dish or bubble wrap in the most unusual way possible. While half of the interviewees sat opposite each other, the other half were communicating in a video conference. Then the students evaluated how the ideas of the new subjects were. In digital encounters, fewer ideas emerged, which were also less creative than suggestions generated during a real meeting. However, when it came to choosing the best idea, video meetings were equal.
To find out what made people sitting across from each other more creative, marketing researchers outfitted lab rooms with different and somewhat unusual objects. When the participants sat together, they looked around the room a lot and were able to remember more details from the environment after the experiment. The researchers reported that the more often they looked around and remembered more things, the more creative ideas they developed. On the other hand, in the video conference, the look remained more on the screen. According to Brooks and Leff, this confirms the hypothesis that virtual communication narrows the field of view, making “outside the box” thinking less likely.
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