In spite of some restrictions being lifted following the much anticipated Sunday announcements, it’s clear that the move from home back into the workplace won’t be happening en masse any time soon. In light of continuing lockdown measures, what we’re hearing from clients this week is how remote working is affecting our ability to create and collaborate. Teams seem to have lost some of the interactive spark that’s necessary when it comes to innovation and ideation. As we’re all about ‘setting leaders free’ at Maier, with the new caveat of ‘safely’, we thought we would share a few pointers on how to ‘unlock lockdown thinking’.

Reactive versus deliberate thinking

  • In this first crisis phase there’s been an absolute need for leaders and their teams to think and act tactically. To get on with the DOING – when the building is on fire you don’t hang about deliberating too much and people are glad to follow you if you’re seen to be heading in the right direction. We’ve seen clear actions to designate and delegate. It’s been a period of high adrenalin with a single goal and a defined end point; mobilise working from home, move the physical to digital. We’ve heard a few times; ‘I know it seems bad but I come into my own in a crisis and I enjoy it’.
  • This next phase coming up could be seen to offer less of that sense of achievement, pace and immediate gratification. The end points are less clear, the variables greater – we’re having to run continued crisis-management alongside BAU and in parallel with both, scope out and plan for a ‘new normal’.
  • This is exactly the time to come together, build the whole picture rather than focusing on our individual pieces. And yet what we’re hearing is the opposite. Conversations are scheduled not spontaneous. Actions are assigned and taken away. Thinking, however good it is, is done in isolation.

Ways to shift the gear

  • What we’re working on at Maier with a VP and her global team is, in her words; ‘the need to release the organic thinking that used to give us inspiration and sparks of genius. We need, yet again, to reformulate our ways of being. I want us to use our meetings to reignite our culture of ideas’ In a period of such financial challenge this is needed more than ever yet it’s what is in danger of being lost or side-lined in the face of grasping the efficiencies.
  • Some small moves; maybe don’t plan everything. With diaries awash with Zoom and Teams calls and mail boxes overflowing there’s little room left for the impromptu. Not every call has to be scheduled or planned – sometimes just pick up the phone on the off-chance and connect. Spontaneity needs to come back into town!
  • Tap into your team’s natural rhythm and don’t overthink it. Set a time to come together to work up an idea, agree what you each take away and when you’ll all be back on-line to share and build. Don’t spend ages – work in short sharp bursts to keep energy levels high and the ideas flowing
  • Don’t blame the tech. When it comes to collaborating and generating new ideas, working remotely is a challenge but ultimately it still comes down to behaviours. How can we set up for success? If you want to be creative, get in the right headspace. Begin meetings with something that will provoke debate, curiosity, challenge and energy!

Find a new way

  • Artists and musicians across the world are finding new ways to collaborate and create in spite of lockdown and the results are often awe-inspiring. Not as beautifully choreographed perhaps(!), but at Maier we are looking at ways of incorporating ‘passing the baton’ in our virtual team sessions.
  • A group of best-selling Portuguese authors have taken to writing a serial novel, with each writer given 24 hours to respond to the previous chapter. “For us, writers, it is normal, and it may even be a good condition to be closed and focused to write our books. But when we are compelled to do so, what could be an ideal time to write turns into extremely suffocating conditions. We work without a safety net, with no time for editing, revision, reflection … For now, we wish to offer an escape into inspiration. And one day, as soon as this pandemic is over, go back to inspiring freely.” (Ana Margardia de Carvelho)