Staying Creative in a Virtual World



tim-mossholder-SZgVZPbQ7RE-unsplash*This post was authored by Arlene Pace Green, Ph.D. – Executive Coach & Consultant, Enelra Talent Solutions, LLC, and member of the Hogan Coaching Network.

“Creativity is intelligence having fun” – Albert Einstein

Globally, since the pandemic began, we are working more hours, engaged in more meetings, sending even more emails, and finding the performance-like nature of video calls exhausting.  As many of us adapt to new environments, it can be difficult to find the time or energy for creativity. However, creativity is what’s needed most if our businesses and organizations are going to survive.

Creative leadership is one of the most critical and sought-after skills for leading in uncertain times. Read on for four tips to get you started in unleashing the creativity of you and your team in a virtual world.

#1  Rely on your Strengths

You don’t need to be a creative person to nurture a creative environment. The Leadership Forecast Series can help you identify your personal leadership strengths; and all of those strengths can be used to drive creativity on your team. Perhaps you are known for creating detailed and organized processes. If so, ensure your process contains a window for creative ideas that positively impact the overall result. Perhaps you’re a great listener. Set up a virtual listening tour with consumers, employees, or other stakeholders to gather their ideas on how to solve a challenging problem. Building a creative environment requires prioritizing creativity, not just being creative. Use the strengths you have to nurture a creative environment and outcome.

#2  Ask For It

When we need a higher degree of innovation, one strategy we can employ is to ensure we have creative people on the team. Hogan has identified a set of personality characteristics that are most likely to contribute to innovation. While people are one element, so is permissibility.  Studies have shown that simply asking people to be more creative can increase the number of ideas they produce. In a virtual world, along with asking for it, you need to create space. Some organizations are setting defined meeting hours, eliminating Friday meetings, or eliminating the video component to reduce exhaustion – specifically to give people more space and time to lean in on creativity. If creativity is needed for your team to win, you’ll need to value it and prioritize it. That means asking for it, setting clear goals, ensuring people have the time, and rewarding it when you see it.

#3   Get Out…

…of the house that is. The pandemic has many of us spending more time indoors than usual. However, research shows that a change of scenery and doing nothing are critical for creative thinking. Take control of your virtual environment by scheduling time to get out of the house for walks, gardening, or just sitting on the steps. Time doing nothing isn’t time wasted. It’s actually when the best ideas are formulated and stirred. The Institute for Advanced Studies, known for numerous scientific breakthroughs and a place where Albert Einstein spent a great deal of time on faculty, is known for nurturing creativity. They describe their environment as “simple…comfortable…quiet…and [full of] tranquility.”  If that doesn’t sound like your work environment, find time every day to create that level of quiet and tranquility for yourself, and encourage your team to do the same.

#4   Honor Your Curiosity

Nurture your creativity by following your curiosity. A new idea may not present itself in a fully formed state. Instead, it often starts out as a curiosity that leads to a path of innovation. So next time you are curious about something, honor it by following it. As kids we did this instinctually. We followed whatever was interesting at the moment. As we mature, many of us learn to ignore our curiosities in service to efficiency and productivity. “I don’t have time to look into that – I have to complete Project X.”  While that may be true, at least write down your curiosities when you have them so you can fully explore them later. Ignoring them may be ignoring the beginning of your next and most important innovation – for you or your business.