The COVID-19 pandemic took the world by surprise. It suddenly disrupted the way we carried out our lives including how we worked and interacted with each other. It caused a great amount of hardship and will likely continue to affect the world for many months or even years to come.
Governments, organisations, and businesses needed to respond to the crisis incredibly quickly in order to save lives, minimise the impact on healthcare systems, and save jobs and industries.
But it was this need for a rapid response that has actually created one of the positives that has eventuated from the crisis. A positive that might be considered a little unexpected. A boost in creativity for teams.
Creativity isn’t something that’s really only important in art or music. Nor is it a buzz word that sounds good on the surface but doesn’t actually impact a company’s bottom line. The World Economic Forum recently ranked creativity as the third most important skill for people in the workplace (up from tenth in 2015).
Maintaining the status quo and pursuing short term targets and high revenues naturally rewards sticking to existing practices and safe behaviours. Managers are usually looking for guaranteed outcomes and team cultures are often influenced by a fear of missing targets - a fear of failure. This negatively affects a culture of creativity and innovation. For many organisations, the shock of the pandemic necessitated some forced creativity.
Anything that encourages creativity, whether internally or externally generated, can have positive effects on the culture of an organisation and the longer term performance of teams.
Creativity in the workplace leads to genuine innovation and improved flexibility and adaptability in overcoming challenges.
Thinking on your feet
Being forced into action tends to lead to particular kinds of outcomes. With less time to plan, it can mean that more mistakes are made and that outcomes are less predictable. But being forced to make major decisions in short periods of time is also conducive to encouraging creative approaches to problems.
Epidemiologists, data scientists, government and health officials, academics, and business leaders were all required to collaborate in attempting to solve the problems that the pandemic created. Some of the solutions have been more successful than others.
But companies of all sizes were also forced to think outside the square to address the seismic shift that was occurring. How can the company’s basic objectives be met when all staff are forced to work from home? What are the best ways to communicate and collaborate between people, especially when people aren’t in the same workspace. How much control should individuals have over their own schedules?
Strength in flexibility
What became clear for many companies was that some decisions around how the business should adapt to the pandemic were successful not only in the short term. In dealing with the challenges COVID-19 has posed, some strategies proved effective for better team and organisational performance even once things began to return to normal. Or the new normal.
Good business leaders recognised that some teams benefited greatly through increased autonomy and individual control over scheduling and approaches to work. Organisations would do well to increase their focus on what the pandemic taught them about their employee’s values, motivations, and strengths.
The pandemic forced individuals and organisations to essentially experiment with a whole host of strategies and processes that they probably would never have put in place on such a scale without some kind of major emergency. Processes were put in place on short notice, often without the full knowledge or guidance of CEO’s.
Ideas and strategies were developed by individuals and team members, some of which failed but others that were a refreshing change to the status quo. Strategies that boosted individual empowerment and autonomy. Companies should look to hold on to the positives that have come from this series of forced experiments into new working strategies.
For more information on how you can bring fresh approaches to your business in the post-COVID world, talk to FinXL.