From “The case for designing offices more like bars“:
Face-to-face interactions increase empathy, which is a cornerstone of trusting relationships. “Patterns of face-to-face engagement and exploration within corporations were often the largest factors in both productivity and creative output,” says Sandy Pentland of MIT’s Media Lab in his book Social Physics. Neuroscience also backs up these ideas. In her book Conversational Intelligence, Judith Glasser states that when you are connecting face-to-face, “Mirror neurons are firing off, forming a bridge of insight and empathy with others.” Glasser explains that these “exchanges within our trust networks make us feel more positive, open, and closer to others…Strong bonds of trust serve up a cocktail of the brain’s feel-good natural chemicals like oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin.”
Therefore, to make workers happier in both social and professional structures at work, we need to understand how to manufacture more eye-to-eye happenstances.
Click bait article title aside, nothing beats face-to-face interactions, especially in multi-cultural, multi-lingual teams. Our dependence on chat software for communication is not a strength nor an advantage, it’s a weakness.
… “when work is created but then locked up in a silo so that no one else can do anything but look at it passively, it doesn’t reach its full potential.”
It’s been interesting for me to experience just how opposed so many people are to sharing and collaboration. Verbiage to the contrary, like state secrets, ideas and work are not just locked away in silos, they are hidden from all but a select few. The result is often that the work loses opportunities for growth and you have a group of people who go years without any visible meaningful output.
Quote from Eric Steuer, the creative director of Creative Commons, in the article Eric Steuer: Creative Commons.
This is related to the work I have been involved with lately. From “The ROI of being social at work” by Matthew Hodgson:
MIT research  shows that 40% of creative teams productivity is directly explained by the amount of communication they have with others to discover, gather, and internalise information. In other MIT studies, research shows that employees with the most extensive digital networks are 7% more productive than their colleagues. Furthermore, those with the most cohesive face-to-face networks are 30% more productive.
This reinforces similar research by Aral, Brynjolfsson & Van Alstyne  that highlights the importance of these networks because they “strongly influence information diffusion … and access to novel information”. Availability of these networks, their research shows, is a highly significant predictor of worker productivity.
Since information does not diffuse randomly in organisations, but rather reflects the nature and structure of human relationships, providing the right tools that support human social relationships, communication and interaction, will provide a significant ROI to the enterprise.
1. Pentland, A. 2009. How Social Networks Network Best. Harvard Business Review, Feb, p 37.
2. Aral, Brynjolfsson & Van Alstyne. 2007. Productivity Effects of Information Diffusion in Networks.