Creating an Innovative Culture in a Remote-First Organization

Overview: While the fundamentals of creating an innovative culture at a company remain the same when remote, such as encouraging ideas and using small teams to build up, the remote workplace offers new challenges for innovators. Look for ways to turn challenges into advantages with virtual whiteboarding, more accessible brainstorming, and shared touchpoints.

Remote Work And Innovation Culture

The irony of the COVID-19 pandemic is that before it arrived, much innovation work was focused on how to unite far-flung workforces across long distances. Virtual libraries, innovation management platforms, and videoconferencing tools went from interesting and useful tools to office necessities.

That, in turn, has created a new challenge. Workplaces generally create innovation culture virtually, through internal communications and social media, and in physical spaces, with dress codes, meetings, etc. Now that remote work and hybrid work are becoming the norm, maintaining an innovative culture becomes a question.

Expect Growing Pains

What we’re seeing now, with disagreement between workers and supervisors, and pushing against remote work, is the inevitable that comes with a new and drastic change. Even the most remote-friendly organizations have struggled with the transition to all-remote and back to hybrid.

The same will be true of your innovation strategy. Getting used to tools, new approaches, and the changes in culture that will result from people reordering their lives means there will be struggles. Consider them opportunities to learn and innovate, to build on for the rest of the team.

The Basics Matter, More Than Ever

First, remember that the foundation of innovation platforms and strategies remain. Rewarding people who submit ideas, a transparent innovation process, and reaching out to stakeholders consistently remain important no matter where your workforce winds up. Consider that, especially if you have multiple offices or a large organization, a fair chunk of your team was already “remote” from your workspace.

This makes the basics even more important. Consider every remote workspace an office.

Create Teams

Creating small teams, even as small as pairs, can help encourage creativity. This can be through breakouts in larger meetings, as randomly assigned teams, or naturally as opportunities to innovate emerge. Working together closely not only helps build better ideas but encourages culture.

Use The New Tools

One of the advantages of the pandemic has been the opportunity to try new tools. Virtual whiteboards, collaborative editing, and other technologies are handy for brainstorming and give you an opportunity to test them out and see what their vices and virtues are. Even tools like recording a meeting instead of taking notes, and using automatic transcription built into video for text, can make an enormous difference to the flow of a meeting.

Get Feedback

Probably the most important part of the process will be the end. Be sure you can get clear, honest feedback from people about what’s working and what isn’t. Be ready to iterate, quickly launch pilot projects, and change course when need be. That way, you’ll be pioneering techniques not just for your team but possibly for your entire organization as well.

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