Six feet apart, yet still close, if they want to be. At the beginning of the year, remote work was seen as either a luxury or a tool to give workers more flex time. Suddenly, with the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s become indispensable. Yet, it’s also thrown employers and employees into seemingly murky waters. How do you continue working on your innovation strategy when you’re not together in the office?
Confront Your Own Assumptions
Everyone’s been thrown into an enormous social experiment, and it’s okay to be conflicted about that. However, it also means you need to set aside your assumptions, pro or con, about remote work. This is a challenge to overcome with innovation, and all need to approach it with a blank slate.
Innovation And Remote Work
The fundamental pieces of innovation don’t fade when you’re working remotely. You’re just as creative, thoughtful, and informed as you were in the office, and you likely have access to some of the same tools and documents. The question is largely one of you worked before, and how you can adapt those strategies to the tools at your disposal now.
Start by looking at how you approached innovation before. Did you collect ideas from stakeholders and debate and refine them in meetings? Did you ask small committees to come up with new approaches to their challenges? Did you have a core committee within departments? These can all be adapted in various ways. Innovation management platforms, for example, can help you collect ideas from people working remotely.
A better question is: Should you retain this approach in the first place? A sudden change demands experimentation, so you should certainly at least try, for example, running a video conference. If it doesn’t have the same snap and chemistry as your in-person meetings, then you move on to the next idea.
What’s Your Innovation Style?
The diversity of intellectual styles in the workplace has become clear with this new moment of remote work. People who thrive on face-to-face contact, and who need to bounce ideas off another person, may struggle, for example. Have your team discuss its innovation style. What makes team members feel most creative, what do they miss, and what have they found freeing?
Next, look at the stakeholders who can’t be there, such as non-essential workers. How can they be engaged? Do they have the time and tools to start a video call or check their email or chat? If not, that needs to be factored into any shifts in innovation strategy.
What’s Working? What’s Not?
For every person happy to get on a video conference or a conference call, there’s another who’s been booked with back-to-back calls or who is simply camera-shy. The first question to ask is how you’ve been using the tools you have, and whether those tools are working for everyone. Then look at what would best suit everyone’s needs. For example, productivity software like Slack might help people who need to write out their thoughts, while offering a more direct form of interaction.
In a new situation like the current pandemic, agility and adaptability will win the day. This is where innovation can come to the fore, as new challenges are presented and overcome. To learn more about adapting your innovation strategy, contact us.
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