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Web 2.0 and Creativity

If working virtually through web-based business solutions limits overall creativity and ease of communication, is it worthwhile?

Creativity is vital for any firm to stay competitive, especially in developed countries, because it fuels innovation, which is our main source of economic value.

More and more teams and organisations are working more virtually, i.e. not face-to-face. How does this effect the level of collaborative creativity and innovation within an organisation?

Working virtually may bring about some inefficiencies (as well as efficiencies, of course) because less of our senses are stimulated and nonverbal communication cues, such as facial expressions, gestures etc, might get lost in the virtual sphere. This in addition to having fewer "water cooler chats" and other settings that are unplanned, informal and social. Inefficiencies in terms of creativity and co-creation might manifest themselves in other ways too - what do you think?

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    Mar 5 2011: These ideas are from Neil Gershenfeld's book "When things start to think"

    Why do we always think that new technology to capture all the good sides of old technology and have something more without any disadvantages? Our aim should be: make use of advantages of both technologies.

    For example we cannot say automobiles are better than horses in every way. No car in the world can recognize its owner, self fuel itself, find a road when lost etc. But horses can do these. We should combine what horses do well, with cars.

    Same for creativity and Web 2.0. Use Internet whenever it is necessary, but do not use it always.
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    Mar 3 2011: Oh yes, I think the use of Web 2.0 tool is least if you use those Web 2.0 tools in addition to existing ways of communications instead as a replacement. We experienced astonishing effects though the use of micro-blogging within our company. The light-weight way to stay connected with your peers adds a new dimension for a team to use their collective intelligence. That was also true when we worked in the same room. Often it is enough to let your peers know what you are working on, an insight of yours or a question that you would like to have answered. A team can reach a higher level of connectedness and often the best answers are only one mind away.

    The written word hasn't replaced the spoken one. Combining both in a sensible way is the way to got. I am sure, the same is true for web 2.0 tools.
  • Mar 2 2011: Arguably, another creativity and productivity issue with working virtually is that the barrier to ask for help/input is in-effect larger. Calling, emailing or IM someone is harder because it is more explicit and formal as opposed to just mentioning a topic informally to the guy on the desk next to you or "by the water cooler". This especially the case when contacting more senior employees than you. Furthermore, because working virtually often means checking up on each other less often, a manager will often undo things on a late stage. This can be wasting time and quite demotivating.
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      Mar 3 2011: Erlend, I think the world is not black and white. The wise thing to do is to use state of the art technology as a tool to be more efficient, but that doesn't mean that technology will replace all face to face interactions (at least not any time soon). I used to work for a Fortune500 company with subsidiaries all around the globe, that made heavy use of the latest technologies and collaborative tools. We didn't experience any of the problems you seem to perceive.
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        Mar 4 2011: I agree. Even I think that these new communication platforms will bring small startups a new way to collaborate and stablish new bridges with companies all over. I think it's not all black (or white).
        • Mar 5 2011: I absolutely agree, there are endless possibilities and benefits from working virtually. However, it is very important that managers are aware of limitations that exists. And it is these that I am interested in further exploring and defining, so as to perhaps enable firms to more intelligently utilise Web 2.0 with these pitfalls in mind. Hence, the very foundation of my argument is that it is not black and white.

          For example, my research shows that working creatively (come up with a solution to a new problem, planning, decision making, anything that requires imaginative thought power) is done more individually within organisations that work a lot virtually. What might be the disadvantages of this?
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      Mar 5 2011: Erlend,

      I'm interested in your point about it being difficult to point out ideas to more senior employees. When I was around 23 and working in a big organisation I'd have been terrified about saying something out of line, when talking face to face with my boss who was 10 years older, stressed, and likely to be unforgiving if I distracted him with my own crazy ideas! Something like IM might have been a much better, unobtrusive, way to get my point across. And we have seen examples of anonymous messaging being useful as a way for junior people in organisations to come up with suggestions; if an idea comes in an anonymous message nobody knows whether it's from the CEO or from a cleaner.
      • Mar 5 2011: Very interesting to get a partly opposing argument. In this sense, working through technologies might work both ways, limiting and enabling - perhaps depending on type of situation, relationship and personalities?

        What might be concluded from this is that at least initially getting to know each other via face-to-face interaction is very important, because this leads to a more informal and personal relationship. If this is in place you can more fully exploit ICTs AND face-to-face interaction to share ideas, discuss etc, which suits many purposes, situations and personalities. However, if the relationship is dominated by too much virtual interaction it becomes quite formal. In this case I would argue that only ICTs can be effectively used to discuss - again, especially if the one person is more senior than the other(s). This stresses the importance of prioritising relationships and finding the right mix of virtual and face-to-face interaction.
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          Mar 7 2011: I couldn't agree more about the value of face-to-face. One of the most constructive conversations I had with the boss I mentioned in the previous post was when he, I and another colleague were on a train from London to Bristol Parkway (about 1 hour 20 minutes). We managed to get seats round a table, and it was just the right amount of time for our collective attention span. However that was before the availability of any sort of mobile Internet
  • Mar 1 2011: Hi Jordan,

    Yes, I agree, in general Web 2.0 might be driving innovation. However, in terms of team dynamics, communicating via email, chat or Skype is in many ways quite different from face-to-face. I am arguing that, when encouraging collaborative creativity is the goal, using Web 2.0 in the business domain might be limiting the effectiveness of communication and hence creativity. Do we perhaps need to approximate the face-to-face experience through 3D video conferencing etc?

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      Mar 3 2011: why not? yes I think 3d video conferencing will come to fruition on a massive scale (it's already been done locally), and I further more think it will be an improvement. as the technology evolves it will evolve to be invisible, leaving only me and my Chinese business associate talking face to face 6098 miles away
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    Feb 28 2011: mmm, maybe I don't understand your debate but progress drives creativity and innovation. I'm excited for the next web because I'm excited for the 3d implications of the next generation of internet browsers.