Photo by Martin Adams on Unsplash
May 15, 2020

How do you create a culture of innovation whilst working remotely?

As people across the world continue to work remotely, video call fatigue setting in and, in some cases, no solid timeframes as to when they’ll be able to get back to the office, is it possible to encourage a culture of innovation? It has been proven that innovative companies not only grow faster but are much more profitable, and in a shorter time frame, than companies who are less innovative. And it has never been more important to continue to innovate. Once the immediate priorities of the COVID-19 pandemic have been addressed, creating a culture of innovation should remain a priority for companies, and working remotely shouldn’t become a barrier to this.

When we are taken out of our daily routines, it is often the chance we need for innovation to thrive. And it’s no doubt that the so called new normal of remote working, often combined with home-schooling of children and financial and health stresses has shaken everyone’s daily routines to the core. However, when faced with problems, humans inherently want to solve them. We start thinking about how we can make things better, easier; surely there are different time or cost saving methods available? And if there’s not, this is when we should be encouraged to create them.

But how do you encourage innovation? The old adage, “we have always done it this way” should be one of the first things to go. We are now in a time where nothing like the way we are working and changing as a society has been experienced before, and there has never been a more important time to encourage your teams to think about new ways of doing things. Established processes will, more often than not, produce a known result, and it is more important than ever to be proactive and forward thinking.

A culture that is open to new ideas must be created. Let your teams know that you want to hear their ideas, no matter how bold they may seem at the time. No one should ever be made to feel that their idea is bad, and all ideas should be given airtime to deem if they are suitable and something which will help the company to achieve sustainable growth. Whether it is in a weekly brainstorming catch up, or by sending an email, a voicenote or a message on any other company communication medium, being open to receiving ideas is key to creating a culture of innovation.

It is important to take stock of how you are communicating with your teams during this time. While everyone’s first instinct was to turn to video calls when workplaces were closed, with internet buffering, no physical cues to stop you accidently talking over another participant, and no one wanting those awkward silences that, when in person, give room for quiet contemplation, the video call can be an awkward place to voice ideas. It is important to give your team space away from the video call on occasion – does this call need to be on video, does it actually need to be a call at all? By creating a new influx of face to face meetings, we are not using the opportunities presented to us by remote working, we are simply replacing the slew of meetings that often are unrequired.

Being at home can sometimes offer up more time to think of new ideas. With less rushing from meeting to meeting in a physical sense, this can open up space to allow employees to absorb more information, thinking more critically about what they have been talking about and listening to. You may even be able to leverage more brains than ever before. Members of your team home-schooling? Let their children get involved in brainstorming – you never know what gems kids or teens may have to add, as they look at things with fresh eyes and are, after all, the next generation of consumers.

Once you have created a culture that is open to hearing new ideas, it is then important to take action. Purely being open to receiving ideas will not encourage people to share their ideas if nothing is ever done with them. The current situation can present a unique opportunity to develop and research ideas. There may be little or no desire to invest in new ideas straight away, but this simply means that there is more time for research and development of the ideas before a decision to pursue or not is required. This also allows for further discussion and dissection of ideas, allowing for errors and mistakes to be identified and analysed early which may inspire changes that result in new, perhaps ground-breaking, ideas.

It is also important that a tolerance for error is allowed to encourage people to be confident that, within reason, if their idea doesn’t go exactly as planned, they won’t be penalised. Where an acceptance for errors does not exist, disruptive thinking abilities and the willingness to try out and implement new ideas may be hindered. Making mistakes through trying to innovate is a learning experience and an essential part of the innovation cycle.

Above all, the core value of an innovation focused culture is the consistent focus on change and renewal. It is about encouraging the sharing of ideas and ensuring that people feel confident in making a change for the greater good. We are in no way underestimating the stresses caused by the current state of the world, nor saying that everyone should be expected to come up with innovative and inspiring ideas right now, but it is about letting these ideas grow when they are identified and encouraging people to innovate when they can.

Need more advice on how to create a culture of innovation? Talk to us today.

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