How to Inspire Innovation on Remote Teams
Remote teams possess the potential to be incredibly innovative. With each member of a remote group based in a different location with unique inspirations and insights, the possibilities for creative collaboration are infinite—if you know how to tap into and channel these forces.
Here are some ideas on how to inspire innovation on your remote team.
Create a Culture of Communication
Innovation starts with communication, and remote teams need to be more intentional about ensuring that frequent opportunities for effective communication occur.
Human Resources Analyst Adrienne Couch at LLC.services advises managers to make sure that team members communicate with each other on a regular basis, whether through video calls or informal chat channels. “By creating a sense of community, team members are more likely to feel comfortable sharing their ideas and collaborating with others,” Couch says.
Virtual communication touchpoints can provide opportunities for cross-functional collaboration and experimentation, which can encourage creativity and innovation.
“When working remotely, it’s easy to shut yourself away in your own corner, but encouraging collaboration between different departments or areas of expertise can foster new ideas and fresh perspectives,” Couch explains, adding that this can also help break down traditional ways of thinking.
Perryn Olson, VP of Marketing for REX.one, has worked fully remotely for the past two years. Olson explains that the marketing team he leads is 100% dispersed, some remote and others in different offices, and has developed a lot of great ideas via communication in virtual meetings.
“Don’t make being remote an excuse for a lack of innovation or creativity,” Olson says. “You can still brainstorm, whiteboard, storyboard, and share ideas virtually—sometimes more easily.”
He advises that when moderating brainstorming sessions, it’s important to make sure you’re giving quieter team members a chance to speak, especially when you have a bulldozer personality in the room.
Facilitate Shared Values
“Having a company culture developed through shared values helps create an atmosphere where employees feel connected and motivated while still remaining at home,” says Emery Bowles, who runs a website that specializes in remote working and remote work tools.
Bowles recommends the following strategies to achieve this:
- Promoting communication between colleagues via videoconference calls or chat rooms throughout the day
- Creating virtual team activities/games
- Providing opportunities for virtual socializing by hosting events, such as virtual happy hour meetups
- Offering employees incentives, including gift cards or additional benefits
- Encouraging frequent check-ins with supervisors so feedback can swiftly be provided
- Fostering collaboration through group projects or initiatives
- Recognizing the successes achieved by individual employees who are keeping morale high
Offer the Authority to Experiment
Innovation will be stifled in an environment where employees fear making mistakes. Instead, they must be free to test out ideas even knowing that some will fail.
Jacob Udodov, Founder and CEO of the project and task management platform Bordio, manages a fully remote team of around 25 people. Udodov says Bordio works on inspiring innovation in their teams by giving them space to be creative and the “authority to experiment,” which creates a win-win for individuals and the organization as a whole.
“Our team is rather small, so everyone we hire is an expert in their field,” Udodov explains. “That’s why we avoid micromanagement and let people try. Yes, sometimes they make mistakes, but most of the time we get unexpected and great results. When employees feel confident enough to try new things, they enjoy the work process more and automatically become more engaged and focused.”
Gabriela Mauch, Vice President of Customer Success and the Productivity Lab at ActivTrak, agrees that innovation is the byproduct of a healthy culture in which employees feel supported in their creativity and safe if their initial attempts are not successful. “The question becomes, ‘How can we create this virtual culture where we celebrate fast failure and out-of-the-box thinking?’” Mauch says.
One effective way to do this, according to Mauch, is by hosting virtual forums and hackathons—not just for development teams—where managers recognize and reward experimentation. “All too often, we rely on all-hands meetings to spotlight successes, overlooking the missteps that led us to them,” Mauch explains.
In addition to forums that celebrate the process and the risk behind positive outcomes, the VP also thinks virtual workspaces like Slack can help cultivate this culture.
“Far more than a messaging solution, Slack and other workspace solutions can be amplifiers for recognizing and celebrating achievements with shoutouts from peers and leaders alike,” Mauch concludes.
Innovation Starts With Culture
By nature, remote teams bring a wider variety of perspectives and backgrounds than teams based in a single location. And employers can inspire creative collaboration and innovation among remote teams by encouraging regular communication and idea-sharing, promoting shared values, and empowering team members to experiment.
For more remote management best practices, check out our Q&A with leading remote companies and virtual teams!
By Robin Madell | Categories: Remote Management