Yes, we have to attend too many meetings. And, yes, many of these meetings are managed very inefficiently, so they waste everyone’s time. It seems like we can accomplish so much more using email, phone calls and Skype.
One of the overlooked advantages of meetings, however, is the personal connections attendees make at those meetings, ultimately creating a more collaborative and effective work environment.
In Click: The Forces Behind How We Fully Engage with People, Work and Everything We Do, Ori and Rom Brafman present research that supports two popular beliefs that just haven’t been confirmed in most peoples’ minds.
A study conducted by Bell Communications Research found that the physical proximity of scientists in office space has a direct correlation to the frequency with which they collaborated on research together. Two scientists working on the same corridor were more than 5 times as likely to collaborate than scientists on opposite corridors. In fact, scientists who were simply one elevator floor away from each other were as unlikely to collaborate on a research project as were two scientists 40 miles apart. So, simple proximity plays a giant role in how workers connect.
Then, how do meetings relate to this? Meetings create an environment where people have an opportunity to connect…”forced proximity”, we might call it. Julien Mirivel and Karen Tracy, two professors from the University of Colorado, were performing some unrelated research on corporate meetings, so set up cameras in a conference room well in advance of the session to avoid any disruptions. What they recorded in pre-meeting conversations were personal interactions that connected participants on a very personal level, which ultimately extended to their working relationships.
You probably already knew this: The more you can identify with your coworkers, the more likely you will communicate and collaborate with them and give them the “benefit of the doubt” if something goes wrong.
But this is just a reminder that a meeting doesn’t just accomplish what’s on an agenda. It provides the opportunity for coworkers to identify with each other and to work together more effectively.