PPeople are less likely to come up with creative ideas on a video call than in an in-person meeting, according to research released Wednesday, suggesting that workplaces should prioritize brainstorming sessions for the office.
The pandemic has changed the nature of office work, propelling a massive rise in video conferencing that doesn’t seem likely to subside as working from home becomes more entrenched around the world.
Seeking to understand how this enormous change affects creativity, American researchers studied nearly 1,500 employees of a telecommunications company in Finland, Hungary, India, Israel and Portugal.
In pairs, in person or on a Zoom call, employees came up with as many creative ideas for the company’s products as they could, then picked the best one.
Pairs who spoke in person scored around 15% more, according to the study published in the journal Nature.
The researchers found similar results in an experiment involving more than 600 university students, who were also paired up and asked to come up with creative ideas for a Frisbee or bubble wrap.
In-person pairs came up with 14% more ideas.
However, it wasn’t all bad news for Zoom, Skype and other video conferencing apps.
Both sets of results revealed that video calls were equally effective at selecting the best idea, a decision that requires “cognitive focus and analytical reasoning,” according to the study.
We are more creative when we are not focused
To understand the difference, the researchers followed the eyes of the participants.
“In the virtual condition, people look at their partner significantly more — almost double — at the expense of their larger environment,” said study co-author Melanie Brucks, an assistant professor of marketing at the University of Columbia, in a Nature video.
The study stated that “videoconferencing hampers idea generation because it focuses communicators on a screen, prompting closer cognitive focus.”
This kind of focus can help select the best idea, but prevent you from coming up with one in the first place.
“We’re more creative when we’re not focused and free,” Brucks said.
“I always suggest turning off the camera while generating ideas, so you can walk around, you can look around.”
According to the study, these findings could shed light on how companies plan for remote work, especially in hybrid home office setups where “it might make sense to prioritize creative idea generation during meetings.” in person”.
The researchers added that they had to exclude results from engineers from a telecommunications company in Poland who, unlike the other groups, met in a hotel conference room.
“Perhaps for this reason, participants exhibited widespread noncompliance, including notable concern about the hotel catering coffee and cookie station,” the study said.
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