Many organisations have pivoted—quickly—to virtual teams and digital collaboration. A new video looks at how to sustain innovation and navigate through uncertain times.

Sometimes it feels like we’ve gone into a time machine and shot forward in time. Many clients say they’ve addressed intense issues in weeks, not years. Now, I don’t want to downplay the personal challenges that many are facing. But I also see that the past few months have emphasised that we all have an aspect of choice, especially as we look to the future of how we go back to work.

How do we make the new normal better than the old normal was?

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Oli Barrett, a serial entrepreneur and expert moderator, and Matt Kingdon, co-founder of ?WhatIf! Innovation. The topic? What organisations can do to equip themselves to navigate through increasingly uncertain times.

Celebrating early innovation—and supporting it moving forward

In the early days of the pandemic, large organisations innovated very quickly as they figured out how to support virtual teams and enable collaboration across digital platforms. The question is, how do we continue to create opportunities for innovation? As I say in the interview, most businesses aren’t challenged by a shortage of ideas, but by how to scale them or make them a reality.

Making sure hybrid workforces are inclusive workforces

When it comes to workplace culture and inclusivity, there’s a gap between what leaders say they’re doing and what employees are experiencing. For example, Accenture research found that 70 percent of leaders feel they create empowering environments where people feel they belong, but only 40 percent of employees agree. And 18 percent of workers—nearly one in five—say they don’t feel included at work. And while that report focuses specifically on the gender gap, other gaps also need to be addressed before organisations make it safe for people to bring their whole selves to work.

In the context of my conversation with Matt and Oli, we talked about how leaders can make sure that workplaces are inclusive of people in the office and those working remotely. Matt added his perspective on how hybrid workforces—composed of people in the office and working virtually—can drive innovation, especially when serendipitous ‘corridor conversations’ aren’t as easy to come by. And he has a great idea around super-concentrated serendipity that I think will resonate with many people.

Putting a spotlight on aligned autonomy

The shift to virtual workforces has emphasised the importance of aligned autonomy, in which people can decide and act within reasonable, sensible boundaries. We know that autonomy in work drives better performance, motivation, and creativity because people feel a sense of empowerment and ownership. Within virtual or hybrid teams, it’s essential that teams operate in sync, and are explicit about who has accountability, who owns action items, and what the priorities are. In other words, making sure that the right hand and the left hand know what the other is doing.

The video highlights that we have big choices to make, as team members and individuals, about how we want to work. It’s an exciting time to bring change forward. I encourage you to watch the video and learn how to outmanoeuvre uncertainty in your organisation.

Many thanks to Oli Barrett for guiding the conversation, Matt Kingdon for his thoughtful comments, and to you for reading and watching.

To learn more about innovation for remote teams, please contact me here, or @andyyoungACN on Twitter.

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