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Making creativity and innovation happen
Making creativity and innovation happen

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8.2 Why meet face-to-face?

The use of technology to communicate has a long history. For example, the electric telegraph was used to send and receive encoded messages and allowed you to communicate with people you could not see.

At first sight, progress in communication technology – which has given us videotelephony services such as Skype and FaceTime – may appear to have solved the problem of not being able to meet face-to-face. Easy access to live video links connects you to other people who may be anywhere. Nevertheless, in instances such as this you might still communicate rather less than would be possible if you were to meet face-to-face and many people are still more willing to make the effort to meet in the same physical space. One reason for this is, if you’re willing to spend more time in each other’s company, you might become better able to imagine how people think and behave.

On the other hand, an undue reliance on the subtle and unspoken messages you give during face-to-face rather virtual communications can lead to mutual understanding being taken for granted. If people do what they usually do, without conscious thought, their behaviour could pre-empt critical reflection about how to do things better.

Activity 9 Virtual or face-to-face?

Timing: Allow about 5 minutes

What do you consider to be the relative benefits of meeting either face-to-face or virtually for innovation?


If you reflect on some of communication’s complexities, you may agree that – although communication technologies allow you to communicate from almost anywhere as needed– there can be compelling reasons to meet people face-to-face: deeper personal understanding might result and you might be better able to pick up on the unspoken cues which everyone gives. While both have a role in supporting innovation, face-to-face interactions can lead to new and unexpected understandings.

Now watch the first 2 minutes 21 seconds of the video below in which cognitive neuroscientist Professor Sophie Scott discusses the nature of human speech and communication.

Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).


As Sophie Scott highlights, so many subtle and unexpected messages are ‘encoded’ in voice and speech. Next time you engage with a person you know well, you might wish to reflect on some of the key things you are able to learn or understand about that person, based simply on their voice and speech.

Next you will consider the importance of boundaries in both supporting and blocking innovation.