Creativity is vital for organizational success. How are online meetings affecting our ability to think in novel ways?
We have all had our fair share of online meetings over the last year. And since these digital gatherings now can happen over a click of a button, many of us now have more meetings than we did before the pandemic started.
Social and environmental factors play an important role in creative performance. A research paper from 2017 found that face-to-face teams perform better than virtual ones. Interpersonal processes such as knowledge sharing and strengthening of social ties are not less likely to happen when we sit apart. We might be together on the screen, but are socially distant nevertheless. Contributing with input and ideas might also be challenged by the fact that we feel less inclined when doing it on our own and being at home with non-work related commitments.
One could also argue that the team feeling is under pressure from home office, yet this is different from company to company. If the team feeling remains strong, psychological safety for allowing oneself to be creative is higher. It is also found that having to wait in turns to share one’s idea can interfere with wanting to match other ideas or unconsciously altering and even losing ideas.
Many workers are however fed up with the pandemic – and this combined with endless online meetings often translate into less motivation and thus a decrease in the behavioural hallmarks of creativity.
There are thankfully also signs going in the other direction.
Working from home are also enabling new ways of working that might set the scene for better creativity. Those who thrive better in a sealed off place rather than an open office space, for example, might in fact take their creativity to a new level. These people might be able to pay more attention to the actual meeting and contribute to it rather than all the distractions happening in a physical meeting- such as someone flipping his pen, and someone else whispering to each other.
Fast Company had an interesting article stating that remote work can indeed make you more creative. Yet the examples are mostly covering ways of working when we´re not taking part in meetings. A way to facilitate more creativity during a Zoom meeting is to prepare in advance. If you´re looking for input on a certain topic, let the team members contribute with their ideas either before or after the meeting – on their own. The meeting itself can then be an arena to ignite or dwell deeper into these. Organized in this way, Zoom meetings might even enhance creative input.
Creativity can both be hindered and – sometimes – encouraged over online meetings. Darren Menabney leads global employee engagement at the company Rioch and teaches at Globis University. His words below sums it all up neatly: