Is the Best Source of Feedback the Video Camera?

Last Updated Nov 30, 2009 9:02 AM EST

Anyone who has ever heard their own voicemail or answering machine message, has most likely had the unnerving experience of being shocked by the sound of their own voice. Our mouths are in close proximity to our ears so your own voice shouldn't surprise you, yet somehow capturing it on tape renders it strange. On the HBR Conversation Starter blog recently, Michael Schrage, a researcher at MIT Sloan School's Center for Digital Business, suggests we put this tendency of recording equipment to show us ourselves in a whole new light to work at the office.
Admitting that "self-scrutiny can be excruciating," Schrage goes on to argue that video taping team members going about their daily business and examining the tape for ways to improve afterward puts employees "in a position where they can see and hear how they really appear to others." This feedback by video is a key part of the training regime of many sports stars, including Tiger Woods and Tom Brady. The results can be life-changing, even if you're not in the NFL:
People who've seen themselves brainstorm, collaborate, or design with their colleagues are often stunned by what they see. Self-awareness creates self-knowledge, and inspires personal transformation. One woman had tears come to her eyes when she heard how often she used the words "uuummm" and "uhhh" during explanations of her excellent idea. A high-energy industrial designer blushed scarlet as he witnessed how many times he interrupted his colleagues. He wasn't being deliberately rude, but he now had incontrovertible evidence that his enthusiasms were counterproductive. No polite admonition from a friendly co-worker or public reproof by a boss would have had the same impact.
In the past, recording yourself and your colleagues at work might have been expensive or cumbersome, but Schrage notes that with the advent of video-recording iPods, cameras that fit in the palm of your hand, and digital cameras built in to laptops, technological hurdles are no longer really an excuse. So what's holding you back from seeing how you really operate at work? "You've got the technology; get some courage to go with it, " urges Schrage. "You certainly won't like everything you see -- but that's a good thing."

(Image of man videotaping himself by Kevin Saff, CC 2.0)

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    Jessica lives in London where she works as a freelance writer with interests in green business and tech, management, and marketing.