Meetings Are Up but Collaboration Is Down

One of the most eye-opening statistics of the last couple of years is that even though our time in meetings has increased (in some places literally doubled) and worker productivity is slightly up, collaboration time is actually down.

As technology people, this may seem counterintuitive. If people are in more meetings and using platforms like Zoom and Teams coupled with cameras, microphones, displays and screen sharing appliances, how can collaboration be down? The answer is that we use the word “collaboration” incorrectly as an industry. Meeting online is not collaboration any more than sharing your screen is collaboration, and we need to recognize this if we have any hope of helping our customers solve their hybrid work and collaboration issues.

In fact, according to studies, not only has collaboration decreased in the last two years, but teams within companies have become more siloed as well, and collaboration across functions and departments has suffered disproportionately as a result.

Silos

If you want some idea of specific areas that have been impacted, one study found that “30% of respondents said that brainstorming and generating new ideas was the most challenging type of collaboration to do while working remotely. Also problematic were: planning (17%), sharing information (17%), and solving problems (16%).”

Internal studies at Microsoft showed that the ability to do work that involves new ideas, goals and big picture thinking was diminished when working remotely” and “57% of respondents report[ed] a decrease in their ability to brainstorm with their colleagues.”

-New Future of Work Report, p8

The reason is fairly simple. Remote meetings are not innately collaborative and the video teleconferencing platforms we use were never designed to be a replacement for every type of meeting. Sure, there are some plug-ins, apps and Zapps that you can use to add functionality, but that ecosystem is not fully developed yet, and the transition from task to task and meeting to meeting is still clunky at best.

So, whatever is a technology savvy company to do if they want to decrease silos and increase collaboration? They need to look towards software developed not around hardware, but around workflows. The good news is that there are at least 3 really viable choices in our AV ecosystem right now. They all use slightly different approaches, but they have some commonalities.

First, they are focused on creating workspaces that support multiple modes of working. Whether that’s a video meeting, sharing screens, watching videos, brain-writing by dropping notes in the digital workspace, polling participants, etc, these platforms support that. They also provide space beyond the screen to move a side bar or task to another area of the workplace, keeping it all in the same ecosystem but allowing people to explore tangents or work on separate problems as they arise. Sessions can be saved, allowing participants to reconvene a meeting later in the same workspace with all the resources still available from the last meeting. This also allows for asynchronous work so team members can come into the digital workspace between meetings to add data or complete tasks, or even schedule breakout meetings with smaller teams needed to perform specific tasks to move the next larger meeting forward.

In other words, these types of spaces allow people to work as they always have — in a flexible, human way. Meetings are no longer limited to the limitations of the VTC platform.

All of this promotes better collaboration, better decision making and greater efficiency by eliminating rework and wasted time recreating the end of the last meeting to move on to the next phase. It also eliminates switching back and forth across multiple platforms or scheduling several meetings in multiple platforms to accomplish different parts of a single initiative.

I’ll be doing a deeper dive on three platforms in my final installment of this blog.

If you want to get a head start, you can check out their websites here:

T1V

Alleo

Bluescape

If we are to continue to add value as an industry, we need to move beyond thinking in cameras, microphones, speakers and displays and start thinking about the way people work, create and make decisions. This will require us to have deeper conversations with clients as well as be comfortable in talking about … (GULP) … software.

If you missed the first two blogs in this series, you can check them out. They are here and here.