Creativity from a Distance

Michelle Mackay, Head of Creative Education, Bauer Academy UK gives us her insights into why it’s so important to find new ways to foster creative collaboration in our remote working environments.

Creativity relies on collaboration

As someone who teaches creativity and innovation, the one thing that I’ve heard the most over the last year of dispersed working (apart from ‘you’re on mute!’) is that creativity is being stifled and is difficult to foster remotely. Yes, creativity relies on collaboration, bouncing ideas around with colleagues, and getting fresh connections and stimulus to spark new thoughts. Yet there are multiple fully dispersed companies across the world who manage to do this brilliantly with teams in completely different time zones.

These organisations think differently. Rather than trying to replicate what they would do face to face and transport the ‘office’ to an online environment; they approach creative endeavours from a remote mindset. You need to adopt new tools and different approaches to make creativity work remotely (ironically, we need creativity to find the solutions to ‘staying creative remotely’ problem).

Understanding the need to experiment, the Bauer Academy in the UK embraced the challenge when asked by Bauer Audio UK to deliver a fully interactive ideas session with around 200 senior managers online. To do this we had to pilot not just one but two brand new technologies, both were completely new to the business and the Academy team. Teams breakout rooms, which had just been launched a few weeks earlier, and Miro needed to be combined and used at scale.

The outcome was the event generated an incredible 825 ideas, which we were able to categorise, download onto an excel spreadsheet, and send to the executive team.

Michelle Mackay

Head of Creative Education, Bauer Academy UK

Top tips for a successful remote creativity session

200 people, 825 ideas and 2 new technologies.

The result was a custom-made Miro board which divided 200 people into 10 ‘tables’. Each table had the same icebreaker activity (an emoji reaction wall which required participants to move emojis to aid discussion) followed by a second activity with two ‘buckets’ to be filled with ideas. The 200 participants were separated into groups of 20 and sent to their ‘table’ using the Teams breakout room function.

The session ran successfully and received a lot of great feedback from participants keen to adopt these new tools with their own teams. The project taught me there are key elements for a successful remote creativity session:

  • A Good Brief – we worked closely with the workshop team, with regular meetings in the months leading up to the event to check our understanding and progress.
  • Time to Play a lot of time was spent getting to know the technology, playing with it, creating different versions of things, testing it out, refining it etc. We didn’t just read an instruction manual and copy that, we really got to know the tool and what it could do for us.
  • DIY It – rather than using custom templates we built our own bespoke boards which matched the exact needs of the session and aligned with the branding and visuals used in the presentations.
  • Appointing Team Leaders – probably one of the biggest reasons for our success was appointing team leaders to each table, each with a clear brief and Miro board training. While Team Leaders were not experts on Miro, they were fully prepared to guide other participants on the basics of the board.
  • Test, Test, Test – While we couldn’t test it at the scale we were delivering to, we still made sure we conducted multiple tests with different groups to iron out problems. In the weeks running up to the event we were continually testing and refining as we went., looking for mistakes and learning quickly.

The outcome was the event generated an incredible 825 ideas, which we were able to categorise, download onto an excel spreadsheet, and send to the executive team. Not something you can do easily with a stack of physical sticky notes! The session showed the power of collaboration at scale. But more importantly gives a glimpse of how working remotely can be just as creative as face to face, if not more so.

Author: Michelle Mackay, Head of Creative Education, Bauer Academy UK

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