In this guest post, Tom Manning (main photo), creative lead at Red Havas, says remote working need not be at the detriment of people’s creativity…
Once, as a junior creative, I was shouted at by an account director for having my feet on the table in a client workshop. “In my defence”, I said, “I was thinking”. This didn’t save me from their wrath, but it was true.
After two years of working from home, you don’t need to know which ideas I had with my feet on the table. I, like you, have fully adjusted to being totally and unselfconsciously weird when I come up with ideas.
But despite this personal creative revolution taking place at our kitchen tables, organisations are struggling to keep pace. The way in which creative ideas are shared and received, encouraged, or discouraged, acted on or ignored has remained largely unchanged.
The leaps in our individual creative thinking won’t do much unless we collectively learn to recognise valuable ideas and find ways to implement them. If you manage a team, you have a responsibility to work at changing your organisation to make it more receptive to new ideas. What could that look like? Here are three possibilities, along with their potential risks and opportunities.
Remote work has changed… the trust we place in our team
The biggest killer of ideas is fear. We worry about what our colleagues might think. This fear can intensify when we’re physically separated. Any of us are capable of spiralling out and thinking their team is going to judge them or turn on them.
Risk: Trust breaks down and fear pervades
If we don’t encourage bold thinking, or shut new ideas down too soon, fear grows, and creativity shrinks. This is especially true when we’re at home without anyone on hand to reassure us.
Opportunity: Trust lets us venture further into unknown territories
Consider every conversation, action, and decision as an opportunity to build trust. If you do, then you’ll never struggle to have the goodwill you need to lead your team into unknown territories.
Remote work has changed… the chance encounters that lead to new ideas
Serendipity has played a role in many of our best creative ideas, whether it’s a conversation in the corridor that offers a new perspective or something you notice on our way to work. Working from home, when taken too literally, can keep us feeling stuck in our comfort zone.
Risk: Our world feels small and so do our ideas
When your commute involves dragging yourself from your bed to your desk, being stuck at home, staring at the same four walls all day can be a creativity killer.
Opportunity: We have the freedom to explore new ways of working
If you can work from home, you can work from anywhere. Seize the chance to change your environment, to fill your brain with new information—and encourage your team to do the same.
Remote work has changed… the rituals we share with our team
Getting together to share ideas and inspiration, or to lay out our vision for a particular project can feel clunky or awkward when working remotely. But these rituals are key to keeping your team engaged and energised—they’re the mechanics of managing your team’s creativity.
Risk: getting together feels like an obligation or interruption
If we impose too many practices on our team without explaining their value, they can start to feel suffocating and a waste of time. The eye-rolling and excuses for attending will quickly follow and cynicism of your future efforts will creep in.
Opportunity: gain clarity and unlock your team’s brilliance
Try breaking down your team rituals into three buckets: weekly, monthly, and quarterly. Make sure you explain to your team why these rituals are valuable and how they will benefit them directly. Be sure to ask for their feedback regularly and adapt or change where necessary.
The shift to remote work is offering new ways to make our organisations more open to creative ideas, but it’s also increased the risk that those ideas will be ignored. We need to change the way our organisations operate, not just the way our people think. Creativity doesn’t just hinge on creative individuals but those who recognise it.