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Report: For new ideas, face-to-face significantly outperforms other meeting formats

Scientifically valid research conducted by the IMEX Group in partnership with the Meetology Group has found face-to-face meetings significantly outperform both video and voice-only interactions when it comes to generating creative ideas.

The results from the Meetology Laboratory experiments, which were conducted during IMEX in Frankfurt in 2012, clearly demonstrate working together face-to-face generates more ideas plus a marginally higher quality and a greater variety of ideas when compared to undertaking the same task either on the phone or via video link.

“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,” said Dr. Paul Redford, psychology consultant. “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.”
While more ideas were generated, they also had a greater depth of quality, even when cultural barriers existed among participants.

“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 a greater variety of ideas produced,” said Redford. “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 scientific experiment was 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 organizations.

The results show that, on average, the face-to-face pairs of participants generated 30 percent more ideas than the virtual pairs. Applying a world-recognized test of validity, Cohen’s D-effect measure, this was shown as a statistically significant medium to moderate size effect. Similar results also were 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 percent more than the number generated under voice-only conditions and 70 percent more than were generated under video conditions.

Study results indicate firms involved in the tradeshow industry looking for new, fresh ideas should make time for such in-depth discussions.

“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,” said Carina Bauer, CEO, IMEX Group. “As with many research studies, we are left with outstanding questions, which all need further exploration. But, these results appear to suggest that if you are a company or organization that needs to generate a high quantity of fresh, new ideas, then getting a group of staff or other 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.”

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