4 tips to foster efficient and effective innovation in the era of remote work

  • Business Model Innovation

Regardless of our job title, we’ve all had to adapt the way we do things at work this year. For some, the shift to remote or distributed work was easy, with no real changes to how they do their tasks. For others, achieving the same level of effectiveness as they did pre-pandemic has required a significant redesign of their processes.

Innovation teams have been particularly challenged in this regard. Within a large organization, innovation departments are typically made of multi-disciplinary teams led by dedicated innovation managers. These teams work on the innovation pipeline and execute on a variety of projects, ideating (and iterating) on new viable business models.

Up until recently, innovation teams relied on in-person collaboration and intensive co-creation, operating within physical spaces that allowed for ideation and data-driven decision making. With the advent of remote work – not just during the pandemic but as a key component of the future of work – innovation teams have to rethink how to replicate and improve familiar process in a digital setting. Here’s how they can do just that.

A new model for effective innovation

At BMI, we’ve been thinking about this challenge for some time now as we work with our own clients virtually and help them build successful innovation practices within their business. Based on our experiences, we’ve gathered four things distributed teams can implement to foster efficient and effective innovation.

1. Create a shared vision of success

For every team it’s important to collectively set goals, vision, and values as they embark on their efforts. Also, it’s crucial that all team members are aligned on clearly identified roles and responsibilities.

When people are aligned on what success looks like and how they collaboratively can be successful, they work with more focus, make better decisions, and operate more efficiently.

When teams work in the same physical space, there is more communication – meaning that work patterns and ways of doing things evolve more fluidly. When working remotely, it’s essential to make everything super explicit from the start.

2. Establish a common way of working

Behind every successful innovation team, there’s a carefully designed set of processes and a common way of working, based on a consistent consumer driven mindset that spans across the team.

For distributed teams, you need a digital working structure that’s supplemented by systematic steps and tools – and instructions for how to use them. With this, team members will have a clear understanding of the steps they need to take when running an innovation initiative. This enhances speed and quality, and makes it easier to onboard new people to the project.

Recently, we helped a multinational manufacturer implement a new innovation process that they rolled out across teams. With this new methodology in place, the company was able to bring a new product to market three times faster than normal – and during the pandemic to boot!

3. Build a digital working environment

With your teams working remotely, you no longer have a physical space in which they can ideate and innovate. Instead, you should implement a digital ecosystem that individuals can access at any time and contribute to with their respective inputs and iterations. This should include a centralized dashboard that tracks performance against business goals and metrics, incorporates survey results, and captures customer feedback.

With the right digital working environment in place, teams can collaborate continuously and really leverage the advantages of digital working.

4. Be disciplined

When working digitally and remotely, teams spend less time together. Therefore, it’s important to make the best use of that time. To do so, teams need to have a clear meeting structure and cadence in place – such as sprint planning, working sessions, as well as daily and weekly updates.

It’s important to state what a successful outcome for each meeting should be (i.e. Why do we have this meeting and what do we need to get out of it?) and stick to that. Team members should respect each other’s time and agendas, by being mentally present and well prepared.

It’s also important to be conscious of team dynamics and give each team member the chance to participate and share their opinion, as this fosters effective teamwork – which is harder to do in a virtual, rather than an in-person, meeting. As a team leader you should foster this discipline by setting the right example, making goals and agreements explicit and managing team member participation.

We’re excited to see how different innovation teams will bring these different pieces to life. If you’d like to chat about what this could look like for your organisation, get in touch.


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