Virtual team members can still show innovation even in hard times

How Managers Can Keep Their Teams Creativity Going During A Pandemic

Virtual team members can still show innovation even in hard times
Virtual team members can still show innovation even in hard times
Image Credit: Eric Allix Rogers

As managers we all know that innovation is one of the keys to our team’s long term success. The ability of the members of our team to interact with each other, try out new ideas, refine those ideas and create solutions to complex problems is one of the things that can make a team great. Then the pandemic struck. The result of this is that everyone got sent home to work. All of a sudden the creative energy that your team may have been generating got turned off. As a manager, how can you turn it back on?

The Work From Home Impact On Creativity

Managers know that depending on whom you ask, working from home has been a blow or a boon to innovation. While work-from-home is seen as being effective for continuing current activities, creativity has suffered. And while “a change and a crisis” will drive some innovation, some managers doubt that it will make up for constraints on creativity created by working from home. If managers are not careful, then 2020 will be the year of little innovation, and 2021 the year of disappointment.

Yet some managers say productivity is up since employees disbanded to their dens and back bedrooms. Tempted by the opportunity to save money on rent, many businesses plan to continue at least some professional distancing post-pandemic. A recent survey found that two-thirds intend to somewhat or greatly increase employees’ ability to work from home. Around 2 percent will go all in on virtual. How, then, to keep creativity alive within digital work teams?

How To Boost Your Team’s Remote Creativity

The first thing that managers will want to do is to find way to embed themselves in team members lives. Innovation starts with understanding and empathy, achieved by observing in action those whose problems teams want to solve. That kind of research might actually expand under virtual business models. Managers can redirect budgets to dispatch small teams into the field. The screen lets you talk to people more efficiently, but the gems of insight come when you see someone do something and ask, ‘Why did you do that?’ That’s how team members discover something you would not have known to ask about.

Managers need to find a way to get physical, sometimes. Innovation requires trust: Team members must feel safe to proffer out-there ideas. One signal that you are among friends is eye contact which is hard to achieve in Zoom where you can’t look simultaneously into the camera and at the faces on the screen. Virtual innovation teams can come together periodically in-person for activities like ideation – but also to build their relationships. Such gatherings also help replace that sense of place lost along with a physical office. Managers need to realize that the idea of place creates a sense of belonging to each other. If you are gathering somewhere with some frequency, you can create that cultural connectivity.

Innovation is all about a manager’s ability to bring in more viewpoints. Innovation thrives on varied perspectives and experiences. Digital collaboration can be almost endlessly inclusive. Managers should find ways to open their innovation sessions to more people within the business. The more transparent you are about what you’re working on, the more likely someone will say, “That is interesting and there is something I can do in order to contribute?”


What All Of This Means For You

As though managers didn’t have enough on their hands already, the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic has forced the members of their team to leave the office and start to work from home. This has affected a number of different things including the creativity of the team. Managers need to find a way to deal with this new reality and get their teams to become creative once again.

When the members of their team started working from home, most managers saw a drop off in the team’s creativity. The challenge that managers are facing is in finding way to keep their teams creativity high. One way to make this happen is to find out what problems teams want to solve. Getting physical can help. Allowing teams to meet occasionally can generate creative ideas. Innovation happens the more viewpoints that are brought in and it’s a manager’s job to make this happen.

Creativity is a tricky beast. We work hard to make it happen when our team is in the office. Now with everyone working from home, things have become doubly hard. The good news is that managers can still make creativity happen on their teams. They just need to understand how to make it happen and then take the steps to once again make their teams the creative engines that they can be.


– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™


Question For You: How should a manager measure the creativity of their team?


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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Getting promoted is what every manager wants. With you new position comes more money, more responsibility, better benefits, and perhaps even elevated status. However, it turns out that there is a downside to this type of career advancement. You may now be asking yourself “where did all of my friends go?” Likewise, now when you walk into a room, conversations may stop. You are going to have to find ways to deal with this new world order.

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