How to promote uninterrupted innovation in hybrid and remote teams

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healthy conflictDr. Gleb Tsipursky is CEO of the boutique futures consulting firm Disaster Avoidance Experts, which helps forward-thinking leaders avoid dangerous threats and missed opportunities. His latest book, a best-selling author, is Returning to the Office and Leading Hybrid and Remote Teams: A Manual on Benchmarking to Best Practices for Competitive Advantage. We have dr. Tsipursky asked how leaders can emulate the spontaneity of personal idea generation of employees for hybrid and remote teams. Here is what he shared:

When leaders weigh the pros and cons of remote teams versus personal work, one topic of concern is the water cooler effect.

In office environments, employees from different departments often run into each other, provoking conversations about their individual projects, and spontaneously generating what game-changing ideas can be for the company.

“I do not see how we can replace the inconspicuous idea generation of gang conversations. If we do not return to the office full time, we will lose to competitors who do so and reap the benefits of serendipity. ” This is what “Saul,” chief product officer of an enterprise software company with 1,500 employees, told me during his company’s planning meeting about returning to office after the vaccination.

I told Saul that this is a common issue among organizations, and one that can only be addressed by adopting best practices for innovation in returning to the office and the future of work.

The problem was that while leaders tried to pursue innovation during constraints, they also tried to impose their pre-existing office-based methods on virtual work. When that did not work, they insisted on a full-time in-office schedule after vaccines grew widely, despite the obvious dangers of retention and recruitment that represent action.

Employee survey results show that 25 to 35 percent of employees only want teleworking and 50-65 percent want to return to the office with a hybrid schedule of a day or two on the spot. And 40 to 55 percent felt ready to quit if they did not get their preferred schedules, and many indeed resigned when employers tried to force them to return. To put it mildly, it’s hard to innovate when a large part of your workforce is resigning, and the rest have been demoralized due to high turnover rates.

Personal serendipity idea generation

Many leaders have deployed traditional methods to facilitate serendipity talks during constraints. This included encouraging such conversations between team members, organizing team meetings with the hope that members would have such discussions on the sidelines, and even scheduling regular video conferencing happy hours with small getaway groups.

However, these methods – as leaders soon discovered – are merely transposing office practices to the virtual environment. They do not work for something as spontaneous as serendipite innovation.

Virtual serendipitous idea generation

How can leaders promote the beneficial, casual collaborative teams that have once been personally enjoyed — for their remote or hybrid teams?

To succeed, leaders must adopt an indigenous virtual format to leverage the underlying motivations that facilitate the creativity, spontaneity, and collaboration behind serendipitous innovation. This means creating a specific place for it and encouraging collaboration without forcing it.

For example, organizations using Microsoft teams will have each team create a team-specific channel for members to share innovative ideas relevant to the team’s work. When someone has an idea, they will share that idea in the appropriate channel.

Everyone will be encouraged to pay attention to notifications in that channel. If they see a new post, they will check it out. If they find it relevant, they will respond with additional thoughts, building on the initial idea. Answers will snowball, and sufficient good ideas will then lead to more formal idea cultivation and evaluation.

This approach combines an indigenous virtual format with people’s natural motivations to contribute, collaborate and claim credit. The initial poster is motivated by the ability to share an idea that can be recognized as sufficiently innovative, practical and useful to implement, with a few revisions. The contributors are in turn motivated by the natural desire to give advice, especially advice that is visible to and useful to others in their team, business unit or even the entire organization.

This dynamic also fits well with the different personalities of optimists and pessimists. You will find that the optimists will generally be the ones who will post initial ideas. Their strength is innovative and entrepreneurial thinking, but their fault is to be risk-blind to the potential problems in the idea. In turn, pessimists will serve overwhelmingly to build on and improve the original ideas, pointing out potential mistakes and offering adjustments and solutions that help address them.


If you want to gain an innovation advantage in the future of work, avoid the tendency to stick to pre-pandemic innovation methodology. Best practices for innovation in return to office — such as relentless idea generation — will enable your remote and hybrid teams to gain a competitive advantage.

For more insights and inspiration from today’s leading entrepreneurs, check out EO on Inc. and more articles from the EO blog.

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