How remote teams can be creative online

Moira Dunne outlines ways to motivate remote teams to be creative as well as productive.

The global shift to remote working has changed the way we work. As companies moved their activities online in 2020 the initial priority was on the day-to-day operations. Now, a year on, companies are looking at productivity and connection in a broader context as remote working, in one form or another, is here to stay.

Remote working eliminates the unplanned spontaneous conversations between colleagues that help build working relationships. Many people are missing that social interaction. But this type of interaction also plays a part in idea sharing and creativity.

“It is important to make sure that your creative sessions achieve something. This motivates people to engage and give up their time”

Creative thinking is important in every business as it helps people solve problems, and continuously improve and grow. This was echoed recently by Paul Healy CEO of Skillnet Ireland who said, “design is essential for every business and sector – and it’s increasingly vital for driving innovation and business change.”

How does your business rate when it comes to innovative thinking? Do you find this harder online?

Read on for tips on how to foster creativity amongst your remote employees with creative thinking sessions online.

1. Pick a Good Time

It may sound like a contradiction but promoting spontaneous thinking requires a little planning! You need to provide the time and space for your team to think.

Consider the best time in the week. If there is urgent business to be done, it will be harder for the team to engage and to declutter their minds.  

2. Have a Good Reason

Give your team a compelling reason to give up a valuable slot in their schedule. Be clear about the purpose for the session. Pick a relevant topic so the team will welcome the opportunity to work on the idea.

3. Try Something New

Approach this online session in an innovative way. By using new tools or techniques, you can spark people’s creativity before they even show up.

What online tools to you have available to you? Tools like Whiteboarding on Zoom or Collaboration Workspace on Teams can be used to capture ideas. Or use a physical white board visible to all in your workspace to collect the suggestions.  

Alternatively send a “Creativity Kit” to everyone in advance to generate interest and colour. A kit can be assembled easily enough containing: 1) a small whiteboard, 2) colourful Post It pads and 3) a pack of markers. These contents can be purchased online from any stationery retailers.  Nothing brightens up the remote working day more than the delivery of a surprise package!

Take things a step further using a platform like Yammar, available in the Microsoft/Office 365 suite, to create an online ideas hub. Creating a Group to share your initial ideas on a topic and then ask for input and suggestions.

4. Be Productive

It is important to make sure that your creative sessions achieve something. This motivates people to engage and give up their time.

Have a process for prioritising and selecting ideas to implement. Create a plan and give people time to work on these actions.

5. Give it Time

If the ideas don’t flow in the first session, don’t give up. After a year of remote working, it may take time for your new approach to bed in. Review and tweak after the first few sessions. Ask the team for input on the format. What is working, what can be improved?

Creative time for teams helps increase energy, focus and engagement. And it can spark some great business ideas too. Allow your team this time to be spontaneous and enjoy the results.

Written by productivity consultant Moira Dunne, founder and director of beproductive.ie.

Published:  5 March 2021