Getting the Spark Back – How to Foster Connection and Innovation Remotely.
By: Tristan Martinez, PMP
Organizations across the globe have embraced remote work, but it comes with its own set of challenges. One of the most significant threats is reduced innovation and connection. In this article, we'll provide you with five behavior-based activities that you and your team can adopt to help foster the serendipitous spark that is often lost in virtual environments.
1. Virtual Walk and Talks
One of the best things about working in a physical environment was the moments of spontaneous, creative exchanges during casual strolls or water-cooler conversations. These moments led to some of the most innovative advances at organizations, like Google’s AdSense enhancements. To recreate this dynamic remotely, schedule weekly virtual “walk-and-talks” with your cross-functional counterparts or team members. Encourage participants to connect via video call on their mobile devices while taking a walk outdoors or moving around in their homes. These informal, one-on-one sessions, lasting 15–20 minutes, can help build rapport and inspire flow-state brainstorming and problem-solving discussions.
2. Host Connection Corners
In the office setting, impromptu conversations often led to innovative ideas and collaboration. To mimic this in a remote environment, schedule standing 30-minute “Connection Corners,” where team members can join in video without an agenda. Allow them to discuss personal interests, hobbies, or share updates on their lives. This practice not only fosters that sense of community but also promotes deeper relationships and can generate unexpected ideas that benefit the entire team.
3. Begin Meetings with a Check-In
Drawing inspiration from the Ariel Group’s PRESence Model, start each meeting by having team members share their current emotional state, how present they feel, and what is enabling or hindering their full engagement. Additionally, encourage them to reflect on how the meeting will help advance their work. Keeping to one to two minutes per person, this check-in process fosters open communication, promotes mindfulness, and creates a more supportive remote work environment.
4. Encourage Office Hours for Cross-Team Collaboration
Silos seem to be even more prevalent in the remote environment, so to stimulate collaboration, inspire teams to host weekly “office hours.” During these 45–60 minute sessions, members from various teams can discuss ongoing projects, seek advice, or simply network. This can be taken further by administrative functions, setting up breakout or silent rooms, for members to “body double” with someone who can hold them accountable. This practice can enhance information sharing and spark flames of discussion outside the regularly scheduled meetings.
5. Utilize Video Messaging for Personal Updates
Text-based communication can sometimes feel impersonal, and the buttoned-up, scripted, and well-lit video updates feel too out-of-touch. Try taking a tip from TikTok and incorporate short video messages into your communication mix. Instead of sending an email, record a 2–3 minute video update or response. Encourage your team members to do the same, it’s time to shake up the Slack channel!
Leading a remote team presents both challenges and opportunities, but with a spirit of curiosity and optimism, you can create a connected, collaborative, and productive remote environment. By implementing these tips and embracing innovative communication methods, you will foster strong relationships with your team members and reignite that serendipitous spark that seemed to be the backbone of many organizational cultures. Let's get that spark back and ignite some creativity, team!