Can you create a creative team remotely?

Mar 19, 2021

Creative and innovative thinking has proven to be of great benefit to a company, but is this possible to achieve in a digital world? Moira Dunne gives us five tips on how to bring about creative thinking in your remote team.

How does your business rate when it comes to innovative thinking? Do your employees get time to develop new ideas and solve problems? Are they finding this harder since moving online? Remote working has reduced the opportunity for spontaneous conversations between colleagues, the type of interaction that sparked ideas and solutions in the past.

As time progresses, it becomes clear that remote working – in one form or another – is here to stay. Perhaps it is time to think about how remote teams can be creative.

Do we need to be creative?

A creative culture is one where employees are encouraged to generate and contribute their ideas. Innovative thinking is typically fostered in design-based businesses, but creative thinking can be an advantage in all roles as it aids problem solving and continuous improvement. Remote teams can be creative online with a few simple techniques that can work in any environment.

  1. Provide time

    The brain needs time and space to develop new ideas, so it is important that time for a creative thinking session within the busy work schedule is given. Don’t be tempted to add a slot at the end of the weekly team meeting; allow people time to get into a creative mindset.

  2. Set expectations

    Plan ahead to provide a context for the ideas session. Pick an ongoing issue or topic or ask the team for their suggestions. Be clear about the purpose of the session. Then ask people to give the topic some thought in advance so that the team session will be more productive.

  3. Spark creativity

    Approach the online session in an innovative way.

    What do you have available to you? Tools like Whiteboarding on Zoom or Collaboration Workspace on Teams can be used to capture ideas. Take things a step further by using a platform like Yammer, available in the Microsoft/Office 365 suite, to create an online ideas hub.

    By using new tools or techniques, you help to spark people’s creativity. If you can’t access these tools, use a physical white board in your workspace, visible to all during the session. Collate their suggestions on brightly coloured sticky-pads and then circulate an image afterwards.

  4. Be productive

    It is important that the session is productive. After the free-flow stage, start to move towards prioritisation, elimination and collation of the ideas. Then consider a plan for implementation.

    The team will be motivated and energised if their thinking turns into real action. This helps build momentum for subsequent sessions.

  5. Be patient
    It may take time for your team to adjust to these types of meetings online. Try a few sessions before you determine their success. Ask the team for their feedback and suggestions on the format.

Here are two techniques that can help the flow of a creative thinking session:

  • Mind-mapping for developing thoughts on a central idea or problem in an unstructured way; and
  • De Bono’s 6 Thinking Hats technique for optimising group thinking and creativity.

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

Moira Dunne is the Founder of beproductive.ie.