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Want More Creative Meetings? Stand Up

Standing up during meetings boosts both teamwork and creativity, according to new research.
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You've probably already heard that chairs have replaced cigarettes as  the newest public health menace. "Sitting is the new smoking," headlines have blared, as a parade of scientific research has uncovered the truly terrible effects of having your backside planted in one place all day (including making you not just sicker but also dumber).

Health experts have responded by urging office workers to get up more often or even switch to a standing desk, but new research offers another easy way to trim the amount of time you spend sitting each day--opt for standing meetings. Not only does getting up for your get-togethers improve your health, according to a new study, but it's also likely to encourage teamwork and creativity. It's a triple win.

Get Up!

The newly published science is out of Washington University in St. Louis, where business school professor Andrew Knight led the investigation into the impact of standing meetings. He was inspired to this line of research, he shared, by his experience of standing "scrum" meetings in his preacademic life as a software-company employee.

To discover the effects of standing, he wired study participants with monitors designed to measure "physiological arousal," i.e., how energized and excited the body is. Participants were then asked to spend half an hour coming up with a new university-recruitment video. Half the subjects kicked around ideas in a standard room with a table and chairs, while the others found themselves forced to stand in a space sans seating. Experts rated the results for creativity and constructive teamwork.

The results were conclusive. "Teams who stood had greater physiological arousal and were less territorial about ideas than those in the seated arrangement," reports the University of Washington release. "Members of the standing groups reported that their team members were less protective of their ideas. This reduced territoriality, led to more information sharing and to higher-quality videos." 

Time to Redecorate Your Meeting Room?

Those findings have immediate practical implications for managers hoping to encourage innovative ideas and discourage turf wars, according to Knight. "Our study shows that even a small tweak to a physical space can alter how people work with one another," he says, urging bosses to experiment with their meeting spaces, removing chairs and putting up whiteboards, or even adding walking meetings into the mix where possible.

It's a low-cost intervention that might just have a big impact on the output of your meetings.

IMAGE: Getty Images
Last updated: Jun 19, 2014

JESSICA STILLMAN | Columnist

Jessica Stillman is a freelance writer based in London with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, and Brazen Careerist.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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