In the last year, powerful forces of change have been released
The Covid-19 crisis has acted as a catalyst to two linked phenomena, that is digital transformation and environmental awareness. These two phenomena are substantively linked by virtual meetings. Virtual meetings have saved the economy in many developed nations and now recent developments make them even more important in the on-going battle to achieve Net Zero. This is because they provide the key interface between digital data in various forms and the world of interpreting knowledge teams without any business travel.
Whilst working from home has opened up a new avenue for businesses, many workers have been left frustrated, stressed and exhausted from the limitations of asynchronous collaboration tools and the struggle to replicate the office environment virtually. In short desktop collaboration has been great, but these media are inadequate to handle collaborations on complex tasks. Collaboration through virtual meetings implies ‘working on’ something and if it is something complicated, the desktop human to computer interface, which is the size of a handkerchief is not sufficient.
Due to millions of years of evolution, our bodies and minds have evolved in a certain way and current desktop media fails to understand these factors and makes meetings feel unnatural with documentation passed back and forth between colleagues over a long period of time. According to HH Clark and SE Brennan, the more ‘natural’ an interface, the more likely it is to be used and the better the collaborative understanding. Unnatural meetings go against how the human mind has evolved and requires more cognitive effort. A recent survey by Actus also found that one third of workers have suffered from ‘lockdown lethargy’ since the move to remote working. There is now an urgent need for tools that enable virtual meetings that simulate face-to-face interactions, rather than just showing faces on a screen which can be slow, rigid and often unproductive. These media are now becoming available and their effect is to create a very wide ‘cognitive bandwidth’, close to that achieved by face to face meetings with artifacts.
Creating an innovation mesh
If we then use these new media to connect our knowledge centres around the country or the world, we create a mesh that resembles the human mind with the knowledge centre as the neuron and the new rich collaborative medium as the synapse i.e. a brain. Analogous to this, we can create a ‘smart agile organisation’ by using rich virtual meeting media, allowing a seamless flow of knowledge using any intelligence residing in the inside and increasingly the outside of the organisation.
In order to implement this in our organisation, we now require new richer media which are now recently available. This is especially important as frustration is growing amongst professionals who have not been able to collaborate as they normally would, and it is becoming increasingly important to consider introducing this type of connecting network as businesses move forward. In this way competitive advantage will be easily achieved.
In essence, innovation mesh is the integration of people, digital data in visual form, into a natural collaborative environment, closely replicating face-to-face meetings. It goes further than simply the ability to catch up over the phone or on a video call. Knowledge workers – those operating in industries such as design, engineering, architecture or oil and gas – don’t only need elite level platforms that facilitate complex tasks, but they also need to be able to see and decide in the same way as face to face.
The latest virtual meeting media utilises the knowledge residing in the mesh to deliberately resemble a more natural ‘round table meeting’. This enables team members to sit over the synchronous collaboration tools when there is a project or innovation issue and to find a suitable solution with ease. In such meetings, the quantity of information that individuals can hold mentally and through visual stimuli hugely influences how much they understand and contribute to a meeting. Similarly, body language, eye gaze, and especially facial expression can deliver major clues toward building consensual agreements at meetings. These rich media are becoming vital to reduce the massive carbon expenditure delivered by commuting and business travel.
Innovation mesh integrates collaboration and knowledge management. However, with the majority of individuals now working from home, it’s important to implement ways to connect other than having a face-to-face conversation with a colleague in the office. Combining people’s interaction and enabling thinking in an environment designed to recreate a ‘round table’ face to face meeting will create a virtual space to work on complex tasks synchronously. For instance, businesses in the construction or any design engineering industry, need to be able to share designs, plans and drafts over a rich enough medium to avoid the need to meet in person. Decisions can be made immediately, and any tweaks can be made just as quickly, with live platforms ready to be updated with immediate effect.
What’s more, these richer meeting environments allow for cross-team consensus and input, bringing people together from various departments to combine their knowledge, experience and expertise to deliver real-time innovative solutions. By managing knowledge properly, employees can gain access to valuable information and deliver better results in the longer term. United with using mesh technologies, businesses can electronically re-create any meeting from Team Briefing through to the Board Room, to deliver solutions immediately without travel or carbon expenditure and be able to apply expert knowledge from around the country or world that was inaccessible before.
Virtual Meetings as the KEY interface
Digital transformation is gathering pace and all companies are racing to change. All data may now be circulated and indeed TeraBytes of data is too huge to interpret and must be interpreted in visual form. Of course, such a process introduces bias, and the fact remains that in the same way as our ancestors when they decided the earth was flat (incorrectly), knowledge workers sit around the table and collaborate on the visualised ‘Big Data’ of today and decide on the degree of bias and interpret what next to do.
This is the role of digital virtual meetings, to allow experts from around the world to create and decide on complex matters sharing visual or CAD models or process software, before deciding on the rights and wrongs of the situation. This saves a massive carbon expenditure and allows the key collaborative interface between the world of people to the world of digital.
About the Author
Jocelyn Lomer is Chief Executive at nuVa Enterprises. nuVa Enterprises is run by a close knit team of experts that are passionate about what they do and want to improve the quality and understanding of collaboration worldwide. If you see nuVa you will instantly see that it is not only ahead of the game but the very collaborative environment you have been looking for since touchscreens became a reality.
Featured image: ©Twenty20Photos