Zoom, Google meets, Teams… Do video meetings slow down creativity?

SCIENCE – If you feel like you’re less productive during videoconference meetings, you’re right and that’s what this study published in the scientific journal explains. Nature this Wednesday, April 27. But contrary to what you think, it’s not because the interactions are more limited, as you can see in the video at the top of the article.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, the ways of working have changed drastically for some. The various confinements have forced people to telecommute and meeting rooms have turned into calls on Zoom, Skype, Teams or even Google Meets. If you are one of these people, you may have noticed that you were less effective at coming up with ideas during these meetings.

Melanie Brucks, assistant professor of marketing at the Columbia Business School and Jonathan Levav, professor of marketing at the Standford Graduate School of Business therefore decided to study the reasons for this lack of productivity. They have recruited nearly 1,500 people across five countries in Europe, the Middle East and South Asia.

Each participant had a pair with whom he had to find ideas from a given subject. Of the 1,490 people, some of them were by videoconference and the other face-to-face. The result is clear: the face-to-face groups found more ideas than those in videoconference. But the reason for this conclusion is more complex than it seems.

The art of video brainstorming

If you have a good connection, video conferencing does not hinder communication by itself. On the contrary, by using data tracking the gaze of the interlocutors, the researchers realized that they were more concentrated and that is the problem.

“When I communicate in person, I am sharing an entire environment. No matter where I look, it will also be the environment of my interlocutor. However, when we are in a videoconference, the environment we share is limited to the screen. And we might think it helps to be more focused, as we are more creative when we are unfocused and free,” explains Melanie Brucks.

In these cases, how to generate ideas while being in a remote meeting? “I don’t have proof yet but based on my theory, then I advise turning off the camera during brainstorming. You can walk, look around,” replies Melanie Brucks. Wouldn’t the solution be to go back to the good old telephone?

See also on The HuffPost: Turn off your webcam while Zooming, it’s good for the planet

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