We also asked their age, whether they liked their job, how they thought their performance compared to that of their manager, and whether or not they actually liked coming to work every day. And they told us! The difference between this and a water-cooler conversation was that a) it was anonymous and b) people were immediately able to see, via the graph displayed on screen, how their answer compared to that of everyone else in the room. This instant gratification is the strength of hand-held interactive technology over on-line or paper surveys where feedback is rarely if ever received.
The anonymity of the interactive system is also critical when dealing with sensitive issues like staff engagement, knowledge and personal preference. The problem with a lot of meetings is that people do not feel comfortable sharing their true feelings for fear of ridicule, retribution, or simply because they don’t want to stand out as being different. When an audience question is asked and the graph appears on screen, there is sometimes an outlying result that shows at least one person in the audience thinks very differently from everyone else. This person can either choose to remain silent or they may decide that they feel strongly enough about their opinion to share it with the group.
This can sometimes have far-reaching effect. At the very least it can help bring a dissenter back into the fold. However the majority is not always right – by bringing a supposedly unpopular viewpoint out in the open it can sometimes occur that the whole group learns a valuable lesson. One very interesting corollary of this is the difference between what people are “supposed” to do and what they actually do in real life. It is no use just assuming that everyone follows the guidelines for a certain drug or treatment regime, understands their OH&S responsibilities or feels good about the new management structure in their office. People are often desperate for the opportunity to say what they really think, not what they think you want to hear. The anonymity and immediacy of interactive technology gives them this much-needed outlet for their opinion.
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