Just when most companies have grown comfortable with global collaboration–and adopted technologies to facilitate worldwide communication–comes word there are limitations to virtual interaction. According to research sponsored by Cisco Systems and published by a division of the London-based Economist, traditional face-to-face meetings may produce better results after all.

In a briefing on The Role Of Trust In Business Collaboration, researchers for the Economist Intelligence Unit report that trust increases and the overall success rates of projects grow when the people involved in them meet face-to-face.

“Meeting a person face-to-face tends to catalyze the interaction and help to turn a transaction into a relationship,” the report states, adding that there is “significant positive correlation between face-to-face communication and project success.” The findings are based on a survey of 453 business executives in Asia, Europe and North America.

Collaboration–a buzzword for the process formerly known as discussing ideas–is high on most corporate agendas. The term is used to cover a broad range of interactions, from meetings to schedule internal projects or coordination of tasks to major initiatives among multiple partners. It’s seen as a way “to glean new insights, reach new markets, outwit competitors, reduce costs and raise revenues,” the study notes.

Despite the dependence on collaboration, businesses should approach it strategically, “and, as with any business strategy, seek to align people (culture), processes and technology with the project goals. In the case of collaboration, that alignment must take adequate account of the level of trust required to improve the chances of success in each form of collaboration.”

Dan Armstrong, the editor of the report, says companies have to differentiate different types of collaboration. “For instance, trust-building exercises or face-to-face meetings may be unnecessary in some situations and important in others,” he notes.

Among those who describe themselves as very good collaborators:

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