workshops : the magic of people in a room
I remember the first days running online workshops over 10 years ago. Hewlett Packard had something called HP Virtual Rooms and Cisco was in the business even before they bought Webex. It was supercool to see faces popping up from San Francisco to Australia.
"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic," said Arthur C Clarke and in truth it was surreal to see words word forming on a whiteboard written by people from all over the globe.
As cool as it was, I found that for team workshops another sort of magic was missing. And it was irreplaceable. In this time when we can't be together I got to thinking about what is missing.
Getting everyone in a room together is the only way that real bonding as a team takes place. It's both something about being able to read full body language, facial expressions and inflection and the sheer randomness of who gets to sit next to each other or arrive at the coffee break together. Almost imperceptibly you get connection, intimacy, and friendship.
ENERGY & CREATIVITY
People in a room get a feel for each other and then create and feed off each others energy. You get ideas flowing in a way they is almost impossible through an online experience. You can almost see the sparks.
Steve Jobs knew it. Even as the iphone and online meetings were taking off he said, "Creativity comes from spontaneous meetings, from random discussions.”
VULNERABILITY & TRUST
Even within a half day a group develops its own dynamic. By sharing feelings you create intimacy that allows people to be their real selves. You reveal things when you are sitting right there that would never reveal in a Zoom breakout room. The baring of souls can change mindsets. That is the quickest way to build trust .
COMMITMENT TO CHANGE
Don't get me wrong. Online sessions can be great but team workshops are a different case.
It's because they are about critical decisions on mission, culture, long-term strategy, project roadmaps - in short who you are and how you work together differently. That shift to change within a team is only likely to happen when the team has physically been on a journey together.
People remember great workshops for a long time. Stories, laughter, expressions, lightbulb moments and the group pic stay with people long after they have left. Some of the words people use after a great team workshop are elation, hope , fun, buzz, energy and inspiring. When was the last time you said that about an online meeting ?
The real reason is this; nobody’s heart was ever warmed by the glow of a screen the way it is by chatting to a live person, and people really talking to people has always been the way work gets done. The rippling effects last for a long time. Let's miss the magic and hope it's back soon.