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Nurturing Organizational Culture in a time of Remote Work

Author of The Invisible Advantage: How to Create a Culture of Innovation, Soren Kaplan,

defines culture as "the norms and values that change behavior". To transform these two essential foundations of a workplace culture, you must look within and change your own behavior, since what we project is what ultimately communicates and reinforces what's important. So, for example, if you would like higher level engagement and more ideation/innovation with your team, you need to do things that demonstrate this as a priority by facilitating higher level engagement. Simply put, do as I do.

But how can this be communicated when your team no longer sees or meets with one another anymore? How can the values of the business find a place in their "homes" or remote workplaces when those locations have their own set of norms and values? These are questions that perhaps still have no specific answers other than constantly trying new mechanisms for higher level engagement and bettering oneself with each trial. Here are Kaplan's ideas highlighting 6 steps to getting higher level of engagement and more innovation from remote stakeholders/teams

1. Find Problems to Fuel Ideas

Innovation starts with problems. Ineffective leaders ignore problems and sweep them under the carpet. Innovative leaders love problems because they're the basis for new ideas. Every month, ask your team to share the toughest problems they're facing due to working remotely or in their work serving customers. Keep a running list that you can continually prioritize. The result: People see you're serious about addressing real issues and they don't hold back sharing problems that, if solved, will make a big different for the business.

2. Bring on Virtual Brainstorming

Brainstorming is a simple process that includes generating lots of ideas, prioritizing them, and the selection the best of the best to pursue. Get a tool specifically designed for online brainstorming, like Mural or Lucidchart. The result: People learn the brainstorming process and your team will have online tools that are just as effective as stickies on a white board.

3. Tell Stories

People remember stories. And stories contain messages about what's important and why. Look for current or past examples of "innovation" from your team, other teams in your organization, or even outside your company. Find stories about how people overcame physical distance or used technology to innovate. Discuss what led to success and how you can do similar things as a team working remotely. The result: People internalize what's important and why and will re-tell the same stories to others as part of reinforcing culture.

4. Teams within the Team

Working remotely can feel isolating. Pair people to tackle a tough idea or problem. Give pairs time to work together and then report back progress. Use the larger team to provide feedback and support each pair's efforts. Run virtual "innovation synch-ups," where pairs share their ideas with the larger team and get feedback. The result: Pairing people up builds relationships infused with the values of innovation while ensuring more robust results.

5. Keep track of ideas

You get what you measure. Set a target to collect some number of new ideas per month (like 15-20) and successfully implement 1-2 as a team. Track and report on progress regularly so everyone knows the targets are serious success measures. Create an online dashboard that you that you use to track progress from meeting to meeting. The result: People see the importance of quantifiable results and feel accountable to them.

6. Celebrate Wins to Create a Winning Team

Recognition of achievements and team celebrations are as important as ever. When someone delivers an innovation--whether creating a new product, service, process, or anything else--recognize them publicly. During virtual team meetings, set aside time for "virtual awards" to recognize those who have made valuable contributions. Email or snail mail a certificate or gift card in advance so recipients have real-world awards in their possession during the ceremony. The result: People understand the innovative behavior and results that are valued and will do what they can to deliver more of it themselves.

Kaplan concludes with, “business should ideally keep going and growing, even in a pandemic or economic downturn. Innovation shouldn't stop either. If you're not innovating, it's likely someone else is. And it's likely your competition.”

Ouch. Nothing could be as clear that in today's world, EVERYTHING eventually gets disrupted. Your organization’s culture is ultimately the only sustainable competitive advantage you have--even in a virtual world. Shape yours today. Call us for a no fee, completely confidential consultation and assessment. Engage at a higher level and invest in your organization's culture.

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