The team at 37signals, a Chicago-based software firm, certainly thinks so.
In an excerpt from 37signals co-founders Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson’s book, Remote, reprinted in Inc.com, Fried debunks the myth that breakthrough creative moments can only happen when participants are sitting in the same room.
According to Fried, the first advantage of remote teams is the limitless capacity to recruit the best talent. An organization is not contained by its geography. A team compiled based on talent rather than location is the first step toward great ideas.
Next, Fried argues that the work of work is primarily to refine current projects and ideas. A team cannot create ‘The Next Big Thing’ without first completing ‘The First Big Thing’. Assembling the think tank too frequently creates a stuffed backlog of great ideas–unproductive and frustrating for everyone.
The minds at 37signals meet in person three times a year or less. Face to face meetings are considered rare treats and the elevated stature gives such come-togethers a new and better dynamic. It’s the old idea that when everything is special, nothing is. Eliminating excessive meet-ups gives the face-to-face interactions an air of importance and big things are achieved.
Frequent in-person meetings and office spaces are rife with distraction. Not only are there physical distractions–e.g., ringing phones–but there are also mental distractions. Boredom and meeting fatigue deplete enthusiasm and engagement.
The remainder of the year, teams can accomplish plenty with remote meeting tools–conference calls and virtual video screening, for example. Skilled remote teams can get a lot done with a clear set of objectives, thoughtful organization, and competent technology.
At Staff.com, we definitely believe in the power of remote meetings. In our experience although it’s nice to meet face-to-face from time to time it’s not essential to get things done in most cases.
The real power of face to face meetings is in building relationships. That’s a bit harder to do remotely (although still possible!).
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