Creating and collaborating in virtual teams
For many businesses emerging from the pandemic, survival will depend on their ability to adapt to changing circumstances and innovate with new approaches, products and services. But how do we overcome the challenges to creativity and collaboration that virtual working brings?
Whilst many digital tools and platforms help us work together on existing projects as effectively as ever, remote working tends to keep teams in their designated functional lanes. So, how do we replace the informal, serendipitous “watercooler” conversations where different thinking collides and creates the spark for a new idea? Leaders need to look for ways to connect different thinkers virtually and inspire creativity. Here’s how:
Get the right people in the ‘room’. We like people who are like us and tend to gravitate naturally towards those who share our views. To avoid echo chambers and groupthink, put together some diverse thinkers from different teams.
Keep groups small. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos is credited with coining the “two-pizza rule” stating that any team should be well-fed with only two pizzas, implying that small groups work best. A group of four to six is ideal. It means we take on board the contributions of each team member and get maximum contribution from everybody.
Build trust. For groups that have not worked together before, encourage them to spend time getting to know each other without an agenda – they’ll need time to build trust in each other before they’ll feel comfortable sharing their thinking
Flex to different styles. Allow time for individuals to prepare their thoughts in advance of the meeting so that you cater for all working styles. More introverted thinkers won’t welcome being put on the spot
Agree ground rules for virtual collaboration. Ensure everyone has the opportunity to share their thinking. When we know we’ll have the opportunity to speak, we can listen better without interrupting. Encourage questions for clarification to ensure a shared understanding and that people feel heard
Extend the thinking beyond the ‘room’. Encourage team members to use digital tools to create private groups or channels for the team. This also allows for asynchronous working, so that team members have flexibility to collaborate in a way that works for them and at a time when they feel most inspired.
Virtual working means that collaboration and creativity may not happen spontaneously at a time when businesses need it most. With a little planning and structure leaders can break down the barriers and keep the creative juices flowing.
If you want to get more creative thinking from your team, give us a call to find out how we can help.