What’s happened to creativity?
A client asked me, “Our team has settled into the routine using video for meetings, although everyone seems to be either tired or a little irritable. They are productive, but what can I do to get their creativity back?”
Productivity is good, isn’t it? Some studies have shown that video meetings can be more productive than face-to-face meetings. Virtual work skills – managing media-based interactions, establishing communication norms, building social rapport, and demonstrating cooperation – enhance trust within teams and increase performance.
Where’s the disconnect? Work gets done, but the team lacks energy or creativity. Team members are not engaged.
The root of the problem.
Two factors are at play. First, the human connection is missing. Video meetings jump right into the task without socializing. There are no greetings, chit chat, physical taps to say “Hi,” or side conversations before and after the meetings. There’s sensory deprivation: no smell of coffee, perfume or even body odor.
Second, the physical environment never changes. Those quirky human interactions, and “time away” from our work areas create mental space to clear the mind. Creativity jumps into that space.
Productivity isn’t everything.
Creativity is important. Today’s challenges are both complicated and complex. Technical challenges are complicated, but their solutions are linear. Complex challenges are multidimensional; they are messy, unstable, unpredictable, and ill-defined. They require strategic and innovative thinking, and the solutions cannot be found in a straight line, requiring multiple people or organizations. They require creativity.
Connected leadership is a term I use to describe sharing and engaging others as leaders. Connected leadership facilitates innovation, creativity, and develops new interactions and wide-ranging ideas. Diverse teams are better teams. As a leader knowing when to step up and when to step back and let others lead begins to allow for more thinking from others.
Several recent studies by Google3, ADP, and Gallup have found that when people in teams are engaged, they are more productive, more creative, and happier.
Hacks to promote creativity and engagement.
Thinking differently builds resilience, flexibility, learn and be creative; these are all good for business. These skills of the future can be developed.
Preparing agendas for different types of interaction requires different planning. Mix up meetings so not all have the same level or kind of interaction. Interactive meetings are more inclusive and engaging for all members of a team. And that encourages creativity.
Here are some things you can do to promote creativity on your team in video meetings.
1. Simplify the Number of Digital Tools. Stick with one or two platforms to minimize glitches. Learn them well. Resist the allure of new technology; your team members will thank you if they do not have to learn a new platform every few months.
2. Individual AND Group Brainstorming. Group brainstorming is over-rated. Individuals can be more effective than groups in generating new idea, if you give them time to think. Have your team members brainstorm individually before a meeting and bring their ideas to the meeting. Start with the full list of ideas, brainstorm some more, then prioritize them. Seek contribution from all of the members of the team.
3. Create Opportunities to Connect. Remember you are working with humans, and humans need to connect. Design a variety of groupings, breakouts, of people. Let them be together for enough time to express their ideas and to chat. Bring them back, discuss the ideas. Send the ideas back to the groups. Mix them up to discuss if time allows.
4. Encourage Transition Space. Provide transition time between meetings. End them early. Don’t meet on Fridays. Take lunch breaks away from screens. Encourage team members to make a clean break from the work day. Rather than respond to email, suggest that they “commute” back to personal time by doing what they need to distinguish personal time from work: cooking, spending time with family, yoga. Let them know it’s fine to take a walk around or go outside and walk if time allows. They shouldn’t feel compelled to stay glued to their screens; they can stand up and walk away from their workspaces when they feel stale.
5. Loosen up. The possibilities are endless: costumes, screen shots of silly faces, stories of embarrassing moments of video calls. I saw a photo of a leader wearing h a funny hat and expression; it became a team meme – with stickers.
6. Adjust Timelines. Spread sessions over several days so the team can think about the task between sessions. Rather than strive for 100% productivity, understand that some tasks take longer without face-to-face communication.
7. Diverge and Converge. Zooming in and out is great for planning and thinking about strategy or goals. Zoom out for a couple of sessions. Ask “What else?” at least three times. Then rank the ideas for as a way to solve the problem. Take the top three and zoom in. Focus on each idea and explore it in depth. If one seems best, zoom out again to predict the larger implications of the idea to the company, customers, and partners.
For more about creativity and team dynamics contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Read more about connected leadership in my new book: Connected Leadership, engaging your workforce to lead themselves. Aloha Publishers.
Dulhigg, Charles and Graham, James. “What Google Learned From Its Quest to Build the Perfect Team,” NewTimes Company, 2016.
Ferrazzi, Keith. (2014). Getting Virtual Teams Right. Harvard Business Review. December.