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How Virtual Collaboration Can Actually Boost Creativity

How Virtual Collaboration Can Actually Boost Creativity

The workplace, workforce, and work of the future will be fundamentally different as a result of the pandemic, but that doesn’t mean worse:

  • Knowledge workers have more flexibility in how and where they work
  • Organizations attract more diverse and global talent 
  • Organizations and individuals have the opportunity to discover new ways of working

Zoom partnered with MIT Sloan Management Review on a collection of articles focused on collaboration, culture, and creativity in the modern workplace to help organizations discover new ways of working while maintaining a creative, collaborative team.

One of those articles, “Virtual Collaboration Won’t Be the Death of Creativity,” by Leigh Thompson explains how hybrid and remote work can actually enhance virtual-group creativity.

“The shift to remote work actually has the potential to improve group creativity and ideation, despite diminished in-person communication.”

Leigh Thompson in “Virtual Collaboration Won’t Be the Death of Creativity”

What to know about unleashing creativity

Thompson explains how and why virtual collaboration doesn’t hinder creativity, including: 

  1. Creative ability isn’t fixed or inborn. Creativity is influenced by factors under one’s control and mindset matters. Thompson notes that “you don’t need to collaborate in person to embrace a proactive mindset about creativity — you can do that independently, from anywhere.”
  2. Individuals are more creative than groups. Although many believe that groups of people are more creative than individuals, there is no research to support this. In fact, in-person groups can stifle voices while amplifying others. But collaborating virtually through meetings makes it nearly impossible for more than one person to speak at once so we’re forced to focus on whoever is speaking.
  3. Constraints spark creative thinking. Virtual meeting platforms can have environmental restrictions that are likely to stretch participants beyond their usual ways of thinking, boosting creativity. 

How to maximize remote creativity

Here are a few ways Thompson suggests to boost remote creativity:

Prevent production blocking

Conversation itself, which involves having to politely listen to others, is an example of production blocking. Virtual collaboration requires less pressure for constant conversation so people can more easily focus on generating ideas. 

Crush conformity 

Virtual collaboration usually results in less pressure to conform since many of the politeness rituals of in-person communication, such as vocalizing agreement and engaging in small talk, are no longer present.

Facilitate idea expression through brainwriting

During brainstorming, participants share ideas in a free-for-all manner but during brainwriting, a group sets aside time for individuals to write down ideas and then they come together to discuss them. Virtual communication is ideal for brainwriting because participants can anonymously contribute to a shared document without group influence.

Learn how to navigate this new hybrid world

Download “Collaboration, Culture, and Creativity in the New Workplace” to read the full article on creativity in the workplace, and be sure to check out these other articles for tips on designing the modern workspace and leading hybrid teams:

  • “Redesigning the Post-Pandemic Workplace” provides inspiration for workplace managers and team leaders to build an office their employees will actually want to return to.
  • “The Future of Team Leadership Is Multimodal” details the four roles required of leaders in a multimodal workplace – Conductor, Catalyst, Coach, and Champion – and the framework they provide for effective leadership in the hybrid work world. 

“Virtual collaboration does provide benefits that many of us didn’t realize or pursue in pre-COVID-19 times. Our creative output may be all the better for it.”

Leigh Thompson in “Virtual Collaboration Won’t Be the Death of Creativity”

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