Why Face-to-Face Relationships Are Still Essential to a Creativity Culture

When Marissa Meyer, the new CEO of Yahoo, banned full-time work from home last February she ignited a lot of criticism.

Mayer debated decision on teleworking(see for example the Guardian’s article “Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer’s work-from-home memo is from bygone era“).

At the same time Apple is building a 3 billion dollars’ (now gone up to 5 billion dollars’) specially thought headquarters to lodge their employees and promote maximum collaboration.

Even with social networking and all these tools that make long distance interactive communication so present in our lives, does tele-working allow the right culture and collaboration to develop?

New Apple Headquarters
The new Apple headquarters: like many creative companies, Apple invests heavily in physical infrastructure to enhance collaboration

In the case of large companies like Yahoo and Apple, or even Facebook, it does not seem to work. Face-to-face collaboration, nurturing chance physical encounters on a campus seem to be the best way to foster creativity and productivity from collaboration. In the case of Yahoo, after one week of shock, papers started to appear showing that possibly, taking this decision was the only way to allow a new Yahoo culture to develop and flourish (see for example the paper “Marissa Mayer Got It Right — You Can’t Fix A Broken Culture When People Aren’t In The Office“).

The power of face-to-face relationships, their intensity and the unconscious exchanges that occur, are still central to collaboration. Or are they? In the next few posts we will explore the conditions in which collaboration can still happen remotely.