Geoffrey James over at Inc.com wrote an article that made our mouths drop and our heart’s sink into our stomach. The headline: 'Collaboration' Creates Mediocrity, Not Excellence, According to Science.
How could this be? The wePresent team has invested fully into the spirit of collaboration. Our new Collaboration Series of products, pioneered by our soon to be released WiCS-2100 model has already won awards at several international trade shows and has garnered interest by many schools, both in K-12 and higher ed.
Could collaboration really be one of those fly by night, soon to be forgotten workplace buzz words. Or even worse, is it a workplace buzz word that will make eyes roll? (a whole slew of those can be found here)
Motivated by fear, I took deeper dive into the the study cited. Published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, the primary focus of the study was on the social consequences of high performers. The specific experiment conducted looked at the social responses to cream of the crop team mates in virtual office settings.
A sigh of relief fell over me as I no longer felt concern that all this work was for naught, perhaps the true culprit here is a virtual work environment.
In his article, James goes on to discuss the isolation that builds for top performers when they work “collaboratively” - but “virtually” seems like the more appropriate fit.
Virtual Work Woes
Virtual workplaces are known for breeding isolation and feelings of a loss of respect, and there’s science to back it up. Research shows that physical isolation is negatively associated with virtual employee’s perceived respect within an organization. Other studies substantiate virtual work increases employees’ isolation and independence, threatening to fragment the organization.
In fact isolation, including work place isolation can be down right dangerous. Actual and perceived social isolation are both associated with increased risk for early mortality.
Dhruv Khullar, a resident physician at Massachusetts General Hospital who has written about the impact social isolation and loneliness has on our bodies warns of the physical dangers of working remotely:
“As people grow more isolated in their work, which comprises more than half of most people’s day, that is in many cases a missed opportunity to interact,” says Khullar. “Over time I think we will see negative effects of working remotely, working alone, working digitally, on people’s health.”
The Need for In Room Collaboration
Face to face communication persists in the workplace because a large amount of research suggests it’s the most information-rich way to communicate and the surest way to establish and nurture the human relationships underlying business relationships.
At the end of the day we must know that we are social beings and social media or other virtual communication, just isn’t enough.