With today’s advanced communication methods, such as email, video conferencing, Skype, chat and IM, why would you ever leave your office? Instant communication and easy collaboration are at your fingertips. But with remote communication there’s often something missing – the quality of the relationship. Is the person you’re talking to even concentrating on what you are discussing? Are they working from home, where the distractions of the dog, package deliveries and lunch get in the way of their full concentration? Even if they are sitting in their office, are they multitasking…checking email…completing a survey…or filling out an expense report, while “engaged” on the call? |
Contrast this with the incredible energy and synergies that can come about when dynamic people are face-to-face. Although videoconferencing and online meeting solution vendors would have you believe otherwise, there are tremendous benefits to be reaped from truly spending time with others. Not the least of which is true innovation.
Ask yourself: What do you get when you put a group of smart, passionate and insightful individuals in a room together? The answer: Ideas. Brainstorming. Real collaboration. Problem-solving. Innovation. What makes the magic happen? The key element is getting people in a room together. They focus, concentrate, connect, interact and, in a word, engage.
There is ample proof that in-person meetings really do work. Just look at the Birds-of-a-Feather sessions at any major conference. These are surprisingly well attended, even though they are often scheduled late in the evening, when most conference attendees are exhausted. The rooms are packed full of passionate people who stay for hours, exchanging ideas, brainstorming and, perhaps, coming up with the next great idea.
Davos is another proof point. Ask yourself why several thousand leaders from industry, government, media, international organizations and other groups travel from almost 100 countries to a small village in the Alps. Don’t you think they could get on conference calls or conduct a video conference if they wanted? The answer lies in the power of people to not just collaborate, but to innovate. And that is a contact sport – no amount of web conferencing can take its place.
The Intersection of Collaboration and Innovation
Collaboration involves exchanging ideas, keeping an open mind, being creative and making concessions. Innovation, on the other hand, is not just creativity. It looks at processes and models, streamlines them, and establishes entirely new business models.
If we could plot innovation and collaboration in a chart, we might better see the path each takes on its own, leading to the intersection of what they can do when they meet. Some issues, such as negotiating strategic relationships, can be solved by collaboration alone. Others, such as coming up with the latest widget, require only increased innovation. But there are many issues-including some of the world’s thorniest problems- that can only be solved through a combination of collaboration and innovation, and it is at the intersection of collaboration and innovation that we find peak performance of all individuals involved and solutions that really work.
Think of this intersection in terms of an in-person meeting such as a Birds-of-a-Feather session. A room full of bright, motivated people who are passionate about a topic will certainly collaborate. They will exchange ideas, be creative and brainstorm new ideas, with a lot of give-and-take since they are working as equals who want to solve a problem. They will also innovate, looking at processes, bottlenecks, and new ways of approaching problems. When collaboration and innovation intersect, great things can happen.
Why Face-to-Face Meetings Work
As problems get more complex and harder to solve, the old methods no longer work. True breakthroughs are needed, and they call for in-depth collaboration and ingenuity. In fact, that’s precisely where the face-to-face meeting really shines – at the intersection of collaboration and innovation. This is where that special spark occurs allowing a group of people to come up with brilliant solutions to the most difficult problem. And it’s definitely a “contact sport” – it requires people to actively participate, with their full attention, and without the distractions of interruptions, distance or time.
The key elements to effective problem-solving include:
• Concentrate brainpower in a small area
• Encourage informal interactions
• Facilitate divergent and convergent thinking
• Reduce the cultural barriers of communication between people of different backgrounds and socioeconomic levels
• Avoid distractions
• Eliminate geographical and time-zone inconveniences
These elements enable the group to frame the problem, gain alignment, and come up with potential solutions. This is simply not possible through web conferencing, video chat or other less-immediate, less-personal and less-than-engaged methods. It’s all about people, fully engaged in the discussion, bringing the best they have to solving problems and reaching disruptive solutions.
Get in there and mix it up!
Don’t shy away from in-person meetings. Create the opportunity for your team, user group, customer base or partners to engage in the contact sport of innovation. Think about the benefits you will realize by organizing an in-person meeting. Imagine the potential breakthroughs. Think about the power it will bring the individuals involved, the group, and your company as a whole.
Create opportunity, and watch your attendees tap into the power that innovation can bring.
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