Organizations may want to rethink their work from home (opens in new tab) and hybrid work (opens in new tab) policies following the release of a new study which found that coming up with creative ideas is more difficult during video calls.
The study, titled “Virtual communication curbs creative idea generation (opens in new tab)”, was published in Nature and was conducted between January and March of this year during which time 1,500 people were randomly paired over a video call or in-person and tasked with coming up with new product ideas.
The authors of the study, Melanie Brucks and Jonathan Levay, found that face-to-face pairs were able to produce more ideas as well as more creative ideas when compared to those who met over video conferencing software (opens in new tab).
Still though, when it came to selecting which idea they wanted to submit as a future product innovation, both video call and in-person pairs were equally effective.
Limited cognitive focus
By using eye-tracking data, the study’s authors found that virtual partners spent more time looking directly at one another instead of gazing around the room. This suggests that visual focus narrows when employees are busy looking at a laptop (opens in new tab) or monitor (opens in new tab) and this in turn limits their cognitive focus.
Brucks and Levay provided further insight on this phenomenon in the study’s abstract, saying:
“Departing from previous theories that focus on how oral and written technologies limit the synchronicity and extent of information exchanged, we find that our effects are driven by differences in the physical nature of videoconferencing and in-person interactions. Specifically, using eye-gaze and recall measures, as well as latent semantic analysis, we demonstrate that videoconferencing hampers idea generation because it focuses communicators on a screen, which prompts a narrower cognitive focus.”
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To move past this limitation of working from home, Brucks and Levay suggest that organizations that have implemented hybrid work policies may want to make creative idea generation such as coming up with new products or marketing campaigns a priority on the days when employees do in fact come into the office.
Now that employees have gotten a taste of working from home and skipping their morning commute, it may be difficult to convince them to return to the office full time five days a week which is why for now, hybrid work appears to be the perfect compromise.
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Via ZDNet (opens in new tab)