Meetings – more than a tool for collaboration
Within the framework of DigMa, the research group has become increasingly interested and curious about the topic of work meetings. We are several researchers who through various projects have taken a closer look at meetings as a way of organising work and who are interested in meeting practices and particularly in digital technology in relation to work meetings.
In June, Lucia Crevani wrote a post about the ongoing change in the workplace and the changes we see that are linked to the important efforts of maintaining and creating relationships in the hybrid working life. This has become the new normal in so many workplaces, not least after the pandemic.
Therefore, something which many organisations face are questions about how we work together and how we meet in an organisation, in a department or in a task force when we work in different physical locations. After all, organised meetings are a way to gather and a space where we can accomplish things together. Traditionally work meetings have also served other purposes for organisations and it is important that we find out more about what happens when the meeting takes place during and with technology.
Because meetings are not just a technique or a tool for collaboration, although we often think that meetings are about discussions about how we should distribute work, about making decisions or about producing something together. In addition, meetings can also be understood to be rituals that revolve around maintaining or changing the cultural values of the organisation. It is based on the idea that human behaviour not only reflects the group's values but that it also reinforces them, which means that meetings in an organisation reinforce the group's or organisation's culture and values. We also perceive meetings as a space where we collectively create order in our existence, where we make things understandable together and where together we can tackle uncertainty and ambiguity.
The question we ask ourselves is what happens to the meeting practice and with these somewhat more subtle functions or purposes of meetings when we meet in and together with digital technology. Because in the digital meeting room there are no doors where we can be sure that 'we' are just ‘we' and what then happens to the contributions we as individuals must make to actively conduct our organisational culture and value efforts for instance?
The use of cameras, colleagues who participate from open environments, an uncertainty in who can see and hear means an exposure without control where we as a group risk losing the openness and creative space we often demand in meetings. The interaction between people and technology does something with the meeting practice and we need to talk more about this in our organisations to understand what digital and hybrid meetings do with and for the individual, the group and the organisation.
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Scott, C., Allen, J. A., Rogelberg, S. G., & Kello, A. (2015). Five Theoretical Lenses for Conceptualizing the Role of Meetings in Organizational Life. In J. A. Allen, N. Lehmann-Willenbrock, & S. G. Rogelberg (Eds.), The Cambridge Handbook of Meeting Science (pp. 20-46). New York: Cambridge University Press.
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