Meeting Success Face to Face … or not

A few years ago I was interning under a fabulous leader. The group I was working with was in a constant state of brainstorming, discovering new ways to reach the people they needed to reach and improving systems. Naturally, this resulted in a lot of meetings and discussions. We started coming up with new places to meet to fuel creativity and expression, rather then just sitting between the same four walls over and over again.

This concept of “the proper meeting place” has been interesting to me ever since. My current business was first imagined in a small coffee shop/bakery in Cape Town, South Africa. It’s tables and chess boards and pigeons seemed to inspire creativity and ideas flowed like ocean currents. Likewise, when I am in need of getting some serious work done, there are specific locations I pack up and head to.  Locations whose very energy significantly improve my own focus. While I have been in my fair share of boring meetings amongst drab walls and found them frustratingly unproductive wastes of time, I have also attended fantastically successful meetings where no suggestion was thrown out and each piece led to greater fulfillment.

These concepts get a little more difficult when businesses are run less and less inside a location, and more and more through the framework of the internet. Our business, Eye See Media, is run simultaneously from the US and Sweden, with our graphic designer in Australia and contributions coming in from all over. Depending on your point of view, this could either be exciting or disturbing.

We send multitudes of emails everyday – because we can’t just pop our head in to another office with a new idea.  We outline, brainstorm and send suggestions through the internet.  We send out, we receive. The in-between is totally entrusted to the other side – there is no looking over shoulders during the process.

I love it.

When there is a partial idea on the table and we send it out to the proper finisher, the idea explodes through another persons mind, culture, passion. It isn’t hindered by one or two brains. It is multiplied by the next person’s freedom within the project. We most often receive a piece that is beyond what we imagined – better times ten.

This process inherently trusts. We trust our collaborators to do their part, in their designated timeline and initiate contact with us. We trust each other to work hard toward success when no one is watching. We trust the ideas, contacts and development that springs up all over the world, because we can not control it. It is beautifully blooming without our micromanagement.

This process inherently miscommunicates. It isn’t easy when you can’t talk face to face – eliminating the 93% of communication that is nonverbal. It is even harder when you add in language and cultural differences, time zones, free scheduling and unrecognized assumptions. But, all these things can be overcome with some intentionality, patience, and willingness to take additional time, send an extra sketch, find examples, and then leave it to the process to improve.

More and more we will have the opportunity to improve our systems, our ideas and our businesses because of the ability to incorporate people across the globe. That means we need to know and study the laws of communication for those countries we are working in, agree to see them through, agree to forgive offense and see growth as a valuable tool worth working for, no matter the hurdles.

I wouldn’t want to run Eye See Media any other way. Difficulties and all. While we dream of someday sitting together around a conference table, I suspect that day will be even more fruitful as we lay the foundation of trust, acceptance and personal ownership. I never want to loose the artistry of including different perspectives into our work – and if that means partnering around the globe through technology instead of boring meetings, so be it.  We will learn to make our virtual meeting space as inspiring and creative as any little coffee shop can be.

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