Since Coronavirus pandemic hit the world, many companies decided to close all or a part of their offices and ask their staff to work remote. One of the main concerns of the business owners is the lack of actual face time and communication between staff. You know what we are talking about, when working remotely you cannot have causal engagements and interactions or collaborations with your coworkers and team members.

(You know, like when Barbara bumps into Rick in the elevator, he discusses his project challenges, and her “outsider” insight helps Rick really get an idea on how to deal with it.)

Thankfully, technology provides alternatives like Zoom, Asana, Slack, Teams, Clockwise, Calendly and etc. Way to the time. Calendar. Whether formally or informally, instant meetings is instant cooperation, instant problem-solving, and instant creative thinking. Or not!

Or not, anyway.

Meetings are certainly overrated in one way. A 2012 research by Virginia Tech showed that meetings made people stupid: If participants were put in small teams and asked to address problems, their personal IQs fell by an average of 15 percent.

The Issue? The feedback, though implicit only, is meant to get enhanced with the help of meetings.

Examples: Those who feel like a “junior” community member report a transient IQ drop. (As in most scenarios, confidence matters greatly.) People that feel they are contributing will not experience a sudden decline in IQ.

And individuals whose efforts have been criticized, though gently, are experiencing a temporary fall in IQ. (Which further makes the person feel “junior,” and their efforts are less appreciated, making it much less likely that they will make a significant effort next time.)

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In short: Not only are big meetings a waste of energy and time for most attendees, large meetings make it highly difficult to get the best out of most of the participating people.

Particularly when it comes to problem solving.

A research undertaken by Boston College in 2015 examined the importance of collaboration and knowledge sharing across large teams. The same task was assigned to 51 teams of 16 people each: to find and put together insights which would assist in predicting a fictional terror attack.

Some groups had the whole team share data with each other; think it as one big group chat. Many teams allowed individuals to exchange information just with one or two certain members of the team; those members could then pass on the collected information to one or two other individuals if they wished.

The “mass communication” groups did much better to gather and share insights, as you would anticipate, and as a result they all had access to the very same “data.”

But again things disintegrated. Rather than failing to decide on a specific idea about how the attack should actually occur — you should think that more participants means more thoughts, but actually the opposite happened: both teams easily agreed on one (usually wrong) hypothesis.

Diversity of views was not the problem. Group thinking was.

Since leaders of the non-connected teams were not able to communicate as quickly, they were less likely to achieve a rapid agreement. They had time to reflect. To come up with their own ideas. They had the time for themselves to brainstorm. Top play around and refine proposals of one or two participants before they’re presented to the entire team.

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As the researchers note, “Dense clustering allows members of a group to produce more complex information but prevents them from producing different theories; such that, clustering facilitates data exploration but reduces solution exploration.”

But brainstorming and original problem-solving in non-researcher-speak is often more successful when individuals first generate ideas on their own, or with one or two others.

That would lead to greater range of proposals, stronger consideration of the benefits and drawbacks of certain ideas, and far higher chances of actually finding the right solution for the wider community.

How to make communication between staff more effective

This will not, of course, mean that you can do away from meetings entirely. Data has yet to be shared. Cooperation is yet to take place. Problems have yet to be resolved. You need to have communication between staff in your company.

Just think about how you’re going to make these things occur.

Please consider:

  • Holding a quick “all-hands” meeting every day to have brief reports, progress checks, etc.
  • Create digital bulletin boards (in Trello, MS Flow, Asana, and so on.) so that everybody in your team knows who’s operating on what, and how.
  • Clustering meetings rather than rotating them across the day so that everyone can take full advantage of continuous, broad periods of working hours.
  • Creating “windows” communication in which people are available for talks, calls, etc. (only few conversations have to happen right now; a lot of people mistake urgent with important.)

The meetings are then going to be more successful.

And so will your staff. Commitment and accountability aren’t generated by continuous communication. Ownership begins with a sense of power, self-reliance and leadership.

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People worry the most about making something work when they feel comfortable.

So when they have time — the full time — to make something happen.

What do you think about this article? How much communication between staff is enough in your opinion?

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