126. Making Meetings Meaningful, BONUS: When Face-to-Face Meetings Matter

Think Fast, Talk Smart: Communication Techniques

Jan 30 2024 • 33 mins

If we want to generate better ideas, then we need to get people back to the office.

In this bonus meetings mini-series episode, we feature an episode from the newest podcast from Stanford Graduate School of Business – If/Then: Business, Leadership, Society. In this conversation with senior editor Kevin Cool, Professor of Marketing and former TFTS guest Jonathan Levav details his study of remote work and creativity. “Pairs that worked face-to-face generated 15 to 20% more ideas than pairs that worked on Zoom,” Levav notes. What’s more, in-person brainstorming helped people consider a wider and more diverse range of possibilities. “Working on Zoom was a double penalty. Fewer ideas — and a narrower set of ideas.”

Remote work may be the new normal in our post-pandemic world, but Levav cautions us from accepting the status quo — especially if we want to keep our creative edge. As this episode of If/Then explores, our best ideas could still lie ahead of us — if we can all get in the same room.

If/Then is a podcast from the Stanford Graduate School of Business that examines research findings that can help us navigate the complex issues we face in business, leadership, and society. Each episode features an interview with a Stanford GSB faculty member.

Key Takeaways:

For hybrid work environments, managers should select “in-office” days based on tasks we perform better in person, such as collaboration and brainstorming.

More flexible schedules for remote and office work allow employees to bring their best selves and perform better at their jobs.

More Resources:

Listen to Jonathan Levav’s Webby-Award winning TFTS episode: "88. Best of: Leading From Home – How to Create the Right Environment for Communication."

Be sure to also listen to Part 1 and 2 of our Making Meeting Matter mini-series.


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(00:00:00) Introduction

Matt introduces the If/Then podcast, and the episode featuring Jonathan Levav, previous Think Fast Talk Smart guest.

(00:01:15) The Importance of In-Person Collaboration

If/Then host Kevin Cool and Will Tracy, former executive producer of Succession, on his experiences with writers rooms and why virtual meetings don’t work in that context.

(00:04:34) Introduction to Research on Virtual Collaboration

Kevin introduces guest Jonathan Levav, his research on the effects of communicating on video on creative idea generation. Jonathan shares the conversation that was the genesis of the research.

(00:05:32) Research findings

The study methods used and results: face-to-face collaboration leads to 15-20% more creative ideas than collaboration over Zoom.

(00:08:26) Understanding the Difference

People’s responses to the study and the impact of a physical experience

(00:11:54) Evaluating Task Types for Meeting Type

Determining different modalities for tasks in order to determine the best environment for that work, and why some work best in certain contexts.

(00:16:42) Return to the Office

As companies are encouraging employees to return to the office for a third day, the tension between employers and employees desires and how to add appeal as well as the lack of systemic study for data-base decision making.

(00:20:30) Advice for Managers of Remote Workers

The need for conscious change to adapt to the remote work experience, and Jonathan’s personal experience doing this teaching.

(00:24:31) Choice Architecture

The importance of incentivizing workers to return to the office by making workplace culture recognize and meet employee needs.

(00:29:43) Jonathan Levav's Career and Next Research Steps

How Jonathan came to be in his field and his interest in studying networking and the way that virtual interactions shape relationship dynamics.

(00:32:59) Conclusion

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