The results from the Meetology® Laboratory experiments, which were conducted during IMEX in Frankfurt in 2012, clearly demonstrate that working together face-to-face generates more ideas, plus a marginally higher quality and a greater variety of ideas, compared to undertaking the same task either on the phone or via video link.
Speaking about the initial results, Consultant Psychologist, Dr Paul Redford, who was instrumental in planning and managing the research, stated: “Whenever you conduct a new experiment there’s always a concern that you might not find anything of statistical significance. You hope for it, of course, but the results and the data are outside your control. So, I was genuinely surprised to find that our Meetology® Laboratory experiments at IMEX produced clear, robust results. A face-to-face meeting between two people who do not know each other resulted in more creative ideas than the other two methods. The statistics show there is a significant difference in the number of creative ideas generated, a marginal but notable difference in the quality of those ideas and also a greater variety of ideas produced. These results were all the more notable given that the participants didn’t always share the same language and did not necessarily know each other before the experiment.”
The live experiment was scientifically devised by IMEX partners, The Meetology® Group, to test the question “Does meeting face-to-face improve creativity compared to virtual meetings?” Given that most meetings involve some discussion of thoughts, ideas or creative solutions, IMEX and the Meetology® psychologists decided it would be worthwhile to try to understand the factors that affect idea generation and creative problem-solving as success in these areas is fundamental to healthy organisations. The results show that, on average, the face-to-face pairs of participants generated 30% more ideas than the virtual pairs. Applying a world-recognised test of validity (Cohen's D effect measure), this was shown as a statistically significant medium to moderate size effect.
Similar results were also apparent in the maximum numbers of ideas each pair generated. In face-to-face conditions, the highest number of ideas generated by any pair was 29, which was 50% more than the number generated under voice-only conditions and 70% more than were generated under video conditions.
Commenting on the results, IMEX Group CEO, Carina Bauer, said: “These findings are very exciting for the whole industry and their implications are wide-ranging for meetings and event planners and particularly those responsible for developing future direction and strategy. As with many research studies we are left with outstanding questions, which all need further exploration. However, these results appear to suggest that if you are a company or organisation that needs to generate a high quantity of fresh, new ideas then getting a group of staff or other people – perhaps stakeholders or customers – together in the same room will produce measurably more than other methods. This is not to discredit the part that other methods can play, especially in this age of crowd-sourcing, for example, but it does suggest that if creativity or innovation is the aim, then face-to-face collaboration is more efficient and productive.”
The Meetology® Group CEO, Jon Bradshaw, commented: “The meetings industry can learn so much from the world of psychology and behavioural science. How people behave is directly related to the outcome of the meeting and our team found this experiment fascinating to undertake. Whilst we in the industry argue that you can’t beat face-to-face meetings here is now some proof to that argument. However, this experiment left us with questions as well as answers and we look forward to working with IMEX to dig even deeper into those new issues that it raised.”