Here’s the Proof Zoom is Killing Our Creativity
In-person meetings generate more ideas, and more creative ones, than video meetings which produce fewer ideas overall. Those are the findings from a new study of more than 600 people highlighting the challenges and downsides of using tech to work remotely, as opposed to collaborating face-to-face.
Videoconferencing inhibits creative ideas
In the study, carried out by researchers at Columbia and Stanford, more than 600 people worked in pairs for five minutes – either in person or virtually – to try and come up with ideas for how to creatively use bubble wrap or a Frisbee. Then they had a minute to pick their best idea to put forward. Judges scored the creativity of their ideas — based on novelty and value.
- They found pairs working on Zoom came up with fewer ideas.
- The Zoom pairs also came up with ideas scored as ‘less creative’ by the judges.
- Exactly the same effect was seen in studies of 1,490 engineers who paired up to brainstorm during workshops at a multinational telecommunications company.
The researchers had a few ideas about what might happening when Zoom is killing creativity in scenarios like this.
Why? The ‘shared space’
In an in-person collaboration one thing that’s often overlooked is that team members are in the same shared physical space and share the same visual cues from their environment – and each other – that can generate ideas. In a virtual meeting, their eyes tend to focus on their screens and they ignore their own environment, which “constrains the associative process underlying idea generation,” say the researchers.
In the study, the pairs on Zoom calls spent more time looking at their partner and less time looking at the room they were in, and remembered fewer unexpected props (a large house plant or a bowl of lemons) in the room compared to in-person pairs.
Why? Moving less
One thing we all know is that people move less when they meet virtually staring at a screen, and movement has specifically been shown to enhance creativity. One 2014 Stanford study found for example that a person’s creative output increased by an average of 60 percent when walking (as opposed to sitting).
During in-person meetings or even phone calls, we can look around, walk around, multitask and use our hands – all of that movement isn’t just more relaxing than staring fixedly at a screen, it also stimulates creativity.
If you find Zoom is killing your creativity, take these steps
#1 Match the medium to the task
Video calls are useful for large teams working remotely to check in and share information and they’re used more and more because of the cost savings in getting people working in different locations together. But this research shows they’re not suited for creativity and ideas generation. For effective brainstorming – meet in person.
#2 Move more
Movement of all types has been shown to help with idea generating and problem solving. If Zoom is killing creativity in your team, why not all go for a walking meeting in the park? Adding in contact with a green space will also give your ideas a boost.
#3 Step away from screens more
It’s not just the time on screens during brainstorming that might be impacting our creativity. Filling our heads with a non-stop stream of news, communication and entertainment doesn’t give us our brains any time to wander and get into the state of flow that’s conducive to problem solving. Spend less time looking at a screen and you may find that your ideas flow too.
My Brain Has Too Many Tabs Open
For more about how the digital world is impacting our work and productivity (and our home, and love lives). Out now on Amazon and in all good bookshops.