Proximity Matters: 5 Reasons Why Meeting Face-to-Face Drives Innovation

5 Reasons Why Meeting Face-to-Face Drives Innovation

Virtual meetings, email exchanges and video conferences play a critical role in today’s global innovation arena – but research continues to show that human interaction has a unique power to share information and drive innovation.

It’s why we’re willing to travel across the country to hear a renowned speaker in person – or chat with a startup founder or ask questions of a software developer. Something happens when you meet eye-to-eye and put a face to a name. Shaking hands has even been proven to activate the centers of the brain associated with reward.

These are some of the reasons why more than 43,000 people traveled to Las Vegas in March to attend the HIMSS18 Global Conference & Exhibition.

It’s also what formed the vision behind the HIMSS Innovation and Conference Center in Cleveland. Your “home away from HIMSS” is a place to continue the face-to-face conversations begun at HIMSS18 – and a place to drive innovation forward 365 days a year.

Why does meeting face-to-face make a difference?

1. Innovation is Complicated
Innovation requires the sharing of both highly complex information (the “know-what”) along with more experiential tacit information (the “know-how”). This more unstructured information is best communicated via face-to-face interaction, where dialogue, body language and eye contact build trust and express subtle nuances.

The history of innovation and scientific discovery is filled with stories of chance interactions between people. And in our own lives, unexpected discoveries happen when we strike up conversations around the water cooler, in conference rooms, kitchens, or corridors. While such accidents can’t be entirely engineered, leading companies are working with architects to maximize random occurrences through intentional spatial design.

2. Flexible Spaces Encourage Collaboration

Our physical environment can facilitate serendipitous encounters, like walking past someone’s desk and saying, “Hey, I wanted to run this by you.” Architects and business leaders are re-designing spaces and re-wiring the social culture of businesses – all in the name of driving innovation.

The recipe for innovation is like your grandmother’s amazing potato salad – a little bit of this, a little bit of that. Physical spaces that encourage innovation reflect a recipe of balanced ingredients:

• Together and Alone
Teamwork is a catalyst for idea generation; solitude allows people to work through those ideas. Spaces that promote group interaction while protecting individual privacy create a shared sense of purpose and an effective environment for all the stages of innovation.
• Showcase and Workspace
It’s important to “show off” and demonstrate the end results – but true innovation spaces are workspaces too, with all the tools and resources needed for “in the trenches” work.
• Designed and Undefined
The best spaces for innovation are intentionally designed and highly organized to maximize functionality -- but they hide it with a more casual, undefined appearance and the ability to alter settings. Both are key components of innovation.
• Risky and Safe
Risk is an essential aspect of innovation. The ideal environment provides freedom to take creative risks in a space that feels safe and stable, without barriers to discovery and exploration.

3. Intentional Design Sparks Innovation

HIMSS recognizes our year-round role as a convener and educator. That’s why we invested in designing and building the HIMSS Innovation and Conference Center in Cleveland as a physical space where HIMSS members can learn, generate content, convene thought leaders and accelerate healthcare innovation.

The facility is an intentionally designed flexible space guided by best practices. You’ll find a balance of individual, private meeting spaces for time to work alone or in small groups – all connected to a large and open convening space for collaboration and sharing. 

4. The Right Neighbors Inspire Fresh Ideas

Who lives next door makes a difference. Proximity takes on even more value when individuals and organizations create a cluster with other cutting-edge sources of innovation. Together, you can create an innovation community capable of attracting global talent – and you can build connections to the broader world via universities and communications networks.

The best innovators keep their doors open to form creative clusters. We chose Cleveland as the site for the HIMSS Innovation and Conference Center because the city has long been recognized as a medical capital. Cleveland boasts three major health systems – Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals and MetroHealth System – and more than 60 medical centers, including the Louis Stokes VA Medical Center and St. Vincent Charity Medical Center. It is also home to major research universities, including Case Western Reserve University.

Northeast Ohio has also birthed successful health IT startups – like Explorys, spun off from the Cleveland Clinic and acquired by IBM Watson in 2015, and CoverMyMeds, founded in 2008 and acquired by McKesson. In March 2018, the world’s largest accelerator and global innovation platform, Plug & Play, selected Cleveland as the site for their inaugural CLE Selection Day, held at the HIMSS Innovation and Conference Center.

5. Meetings are more productive with meaty content.

When innovators take the time to meet face-to-face, they get more payoff by planning content that’s meaningful. Innovation sometimes requires more of an agenda than meeting up for latte and a bagel.

Since it opened in 2013, the HIMSS Innovation and Conference Center has hosted more than 30,000 professionals, clinicians, executives and policy makers seeking meaty content. They come to experience an immersive, interactive and educational environment with real-time demonstrations of the interoperable health ecosystem.

And they come for purposeful programming, including:
• Dev4Health Conference
• Medical Capital Innovation Competition
• Executive briefings
• Educational programming and health IT career mentoring
• HIMSS chapter meetings
• Meetups
• Hackathons and connectathons

The HIMSS Innovation and Conference Center is intentionally designed to spark innovation with face-to-face communication. It is the place to convene health IT leaders, stakeholders and individuals who want to advance digital health innovation.
For more information on planning your next event at the HIMSS Innovation and Conference Center, contact Leslie Evans, Director, at, 216.658.9976.