Blair Pleasant over at UC Strategies recently blogged about a Focus.com IBM and Polycom webcast on video communications in the enterprise. My personal experience has been similar to hers, specifically video collaboration can be both a positive reinforcement AND negative reinforcement of good collaboration behavior and outcomes. On the negative reinforcement side:
One of the strongest arguments in favor of video calls is that participants are less likely to multitask and do other things while on the call. If someone is looking right at you, you're probably not going to be checking your email, playing Angry Birds, or eating your lunch.
And on the positive reinforcement side:
Communication is enhanced. Using video lets you see if someone is confused, bored, or angry, so you can modify your message and presentation. Interactions are more personal, which helps to enhance the quality of relationships between the participants.
Negative reinforcement isn't a bad thing - social mores are just as often about "don't do so-and-so...it's bad manners" as they are about "do so-and-so, it's good manners". Video collaboration is no exception. Personally, I've experienced both the positive and negative reinforcement of good behavior both in work meetings from video meetings. At work we've been (of course!) using video inside a Sametime 8.5.2 meeting for regular weekly meetings, and our team's focus has increased significantly in those meetings. And I've also experienced it outside of work. My personal mobile device is an iPhone 4 and lately I've been using FaceTime to communicate with my spouse, who's recently been in New York while I've been back home in San Diego. The interactions we've had via video on mobile has been leaps and bounds more satisfying than a pure voice call, making the 3000 miles seem a lot less distant.
That personal experience is enlightening. It reminds me that even in business situations, we're still HUMAN. We still want -- need -- visual communication to establish trust and maintain deeper relationships (note that I'm omitting an important conversation on the special challenges faced by the vision-impaired). If Trust is the new currency, then video collaboration will surely be an increasingly important tool in the enterprise.