Thursday, November 12, 2020
Whether through fostering serendipity or implementing a carefully designed project framework, chasing the Holy Grail of successful innovation is a priority for many companies. This is a team effort where employees meet, discuss, share ideas, debate and challenge each other on a daily basis. This year, the COVID-19 pandemic is reshaping the typical business environment and many employees have switched to a virtual office. Is this the end of innovation? Not quite. The approach may be different and some adjustments are required, but your remote team could very well come up with your next innovative service and product offerings the same way it did over coffee in a meeting room. Experiment with these six best practices to help them along the way.
There’s another way to approach and see innovation, one that requires putting aside short-term profitability goals and typical office environment pressures. Encourage managers to step back, consider things differently, relinquish control and focus on soft skills—because what matters most now is learning how to learn. Design thinking training opportunities, advice to facilitate creative workshops and brainstorming sessions as well as developing best practices to foster collective intelligence are paramount to not losing innovation.
Sticking to the same social bubble is a wise move during COVID but remind employees they can and should expand their remote work bubble to foster innovation. Create multidisciplinary working groups with engineers, designers and marketers, for example. Sharing experiences with people from all kinds of backgrounds is a great way to have a Eureka moment. Don’t hesitate to push for creative workshops and breakout rooms that bring together different cultures and experiences. Remote work conditions do make it easier to collaborate with new people and employees generally feel more confident about contributing in a relatively anonymous setting—they won’t be judged and decisions may be less biased as well.
Not everyone is comfortable speaking up and those who are tend to dominate the conversation. Make sure not just voices of self-confident employees, people with great communication skills or executives, are heard. Innovation takes a climate of trust and kindness. The rules of the game are important and should be shared widely—everyone is free to speak their mind, ideas shouldn’t be judged or shot down without a strong rationale, work relationships operate on trust and status quo should be challenged.
Outlook and Excel may work in the very short term, but their limits will be evident soon enough because these are not tools designed with remote work in mind. However, there are digital and collaborative innovation platforms to turn innovation into a game. Collaborative innovation with a collective intelligence platform is the best way for employees to submit ideas, add to contributions and help make innovation a daily hobby. The platform reuses familiar codes found in videogames—point and ranking systems, awards and a virtual currency. It’s easy and fun to get started when all the information is centralized. You can also test tools like Mentimenter to gamify meetings or Virbela to take your team to an immersive 3D virtual world.
You could schedule meetings and phone calls back to back like you did at the office—but why should you? There’s no room for innovation when teams are constantly jumping from one task to another. Practice “time blocking,” i.e. dedicate specific time blocks—mornings, for instance—to meetings and keep afternoons free to work on more important things than low-value operational activities. Check out tools like RescueTime or Focus Booster to manage time better.
Sign up for a Virtual Learning Expedition to gain access to live videos of exceptional speakers who share original lessons from Silicon Valley and around the world on managing during the current global health crisis. New interactivity with simple and powerful collaboration tools for meaningful engagement with speakers and participants alike plus short formats that fit your busy schedule could be exactly what you need to drive innovation in your organization.
Innovation can be created at this office and in your new virtual office—the key is to find the right combination of technology and mindset. These two factors are interdependent as technology will help make your remote work environment a place where innovation can be found and fostered.