Question for the Day: Why does the face-to-face model of sharing information persist?
Currently I'm working with a state-wide group of youth providers working on a specific grant. One member recently circulated an email asking if people were interested in meeting for a few days and if they were, what did they want to accomplish?
Within minutes, several emails came back indicating that 1) getting away to a meeting would be difficult and 2) if they were to meet, the main reason to do so would be to share information and answer some specific questions they have about how to operate their programs.
Since I've immersed myself in social media tools, I've found that in most situations, I will now ask myself if this is something that could be done more effectively and efficiently on the web. In this case, the first thing I thought was "Why do we need to meet? We should just set up a wiki with the questions and then have people post responses and resources to answer them." Apparently I'm alone in this thought process, though, as meeting organizers are forging ahead.
This got me thinking--Why is it that within certain circles, the first response to information-gathering is to have a meeting?
Having a meeting makes no sense to me when people are short on time to begin with and when many would be traveling 3-4 hours and would have to stay overnight to participate. Finding an online solution would be more cost-effective, make better use of everyone's time and would also provide a permanent repository for the information that these people will undoubtedly need again at some point.
Sometimes I think I'm missing something. Is it possible that because I'm so web-enabled I'm forgetting about the importance of face-to-face meetings and need to quit thinking that the answer can always be found online? (Of course, there's irony in the fact that I searched for answers to this question on the web).
As his chart suggests, if people are short on time and they need to gather information, then online is the way to go. If, on the other hand, they are seeking to build relationships and to become motivated and inspired, then face-to-face is the answer.
In the case of the group I'm working with, the clear reason for the meeting is to share information. Many members are already working together, so relationships aren't the focus. They may want a little inspiration, but in my experience with this group, the meetings they hold don't necessarily accomplish that objective.
So why does face-to-face persist? A few reasons, I think:
- They've always done it this way.
- They haven't moved into that web-enabled mindset of asking if it's something that could be better accomplished with online tools.
- They have (in my mind, unfounded) faith that when people meet, there is actually a structured transfer of information.
On that last point--if meetings were such a great way to be sure that people had the detailed information they needed to do their jobs, why is it that we continually revisit the same questions in every meeting? In the case of the group I'm working with, the questions they want answers to are questions they've wanted answered in every face-to-face gathering we've had in the past year! Obviously face-to-face isn't working too well for them.
I suppose that this is all part of the issue of technology stewardship--helping people realize when it makes sense to use technology to get things done. Sometimes I'm frustrated, though, by the persistence of the old ways of thinking. Or maybe it's just that I don't want to have to lose a day in order to get the information I need when there are better ways to do the job.
Am I off-base?
If you liked this post, you may want to sign up to be automatically notified when I post new articles. You can learn more here.