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Telecommuting & Working Remotely: 5 Ways to Sustain Company Innovation

Business leaders recognize the importance of innovation for the long-term success of organizations. In a study by Accenture, 84% of executives believe innovation is key to long-term organizational success. But knowing that innovation is important and making it happen are two different things. Especially in a remote or telecommuting environment!

When working from home, there are multiple barriers on how to lead an innovative remote team. People tend to communicate less frequently, collaboration is more complex, and it isn’t easy to maintain a strong sense of connection to others. Companies that take innovation seriously know that connecting people to one another is essential. In fact, some of the most innovative companies in the world boast open office plans that are intentionally designed for constant interaction and ‘collisions’ among employees.

Micro-interactions can fuel a culture that’s vital for the innovation process to exist, as noted by David Shrier, programme director at Oxford Cyber Futures. Remote work poses a direct threat to innovation in this way: people are far less likely to communicate and connect, and spontaneous interactions don’t happen organically.

To sustain innovation in a remote environment, leaders must find ways to keep their teams connected. It takes more than emails and slack channels to keep people connected in meaningful ways that spark creativity and foster innovation. Consider the following tips for managing a remote team:

  1. Collaborate face-to-face virtually
  2. Create an environment for spontaneity
  3. Build a diverse team
  4. Encourage play at work
  5. Face challenges creatively

1. Collaborate with Video

A new study by IZA Institute of Labor Economics found that creative performance significantly decreased when remote team members communicated solely via chat rather than face-to-face. However, this effect did not exist for those who also communicated regularly using video. In fact, the participants in the video chat condition performed just as well as those working together in the same room. This finding suggests that for remote teams, video chatting is essential if they want to remain innovative.

At Ziksana, we schedule collaborative work hours twice per week on Zoom. During these hours, our team members can work together face-to-face. These opportunities help us stay connected and express thoughts, ideas about work, and questions. It fosters an environment that allows our remote team to share personal stories that make us laugh and play alongside work conversations.

2. Create Spontaneous Interactions

When working from home, most face-to-face interactions occur during Zoom meetings with set agendas. These meetings leave little room for spontaneous conversations or relaxed time chatting with colleagues. When it comes to innovative potential, this concerns Stanford economist Nicholos Bloom. “When you examine businesses or scientists or even the way I do my own research,” he said, “a lot of that creativity comes from idle time and relaxed discussion with colleagues, and that’s all gone.” While open office plans sometimes take this concept over the top, it is essential for remote teams to virtually replicate the casual interactions in the usual found in the office. Here are several ways to do that:

  • Have virtual coffee together in the mornings. Spend time casually chatting and catching up before diving into work.
  • Challenge everyone to call two people per week that they typically run into at the office for casual ‘how-are-you doing’ or ‘checking in’ conversations.
  • Create channels for communicating about non-work related topics. If your team uses Slack, encourage people to create channels to discuss their favorite TV shows or sports teams.

3. Hire for Diversity

One of the major benefits of remote companies is that it removes geographical barriers. This allows companies to hire people from different backgrounds, ethnicities, and experiences. Diverse contributors understand the unmet needs in under-leveraged markets, giving organizations the unique ability to tap into them. One study found that firms with greater diversity were 70% more likely to report that they captured a new market. Hire people who share company values but have different backgrounds and experiences to promote diversity of thought and encourage innovation.

4. Encourage Play

To have an innovative team, you need creative thinkers — people who think outside-the-box and are willing to experiment with new ideas. Innovation requires risk. It requires trial-and-error. And play gets people in the right mindset for innovation. In a remote environment, people have more flexibility and freedom. They can choose their work environment and create their schedule in a way that (hopefully!) maximizes their ability to be productive AND play. Encourage remote workers to learn their play preferences and engage with them daily to manage energy and mindset. You can also capitalize on the power of play by allowing employees to spend a set percentage of time working on projects outside of their regular responsibilities that are motivating for them. Google’s policy of allowing employees to spend 20% of their time in this way led to the creation of some of their most well-known innovative products, including Gmail and Google Maps.

5. Face Challenges Creatively

Innovation often occurs when there’s a problem or challenge that can create value. While some companies buckle under the pressure of things not working, others use obstacles as opportunities to improve their processes and innovate new products. Encourage innovation on your remote team by creating space for employees to discuss challenges they are experiencing or witnessing, both on the individual and company level. Ensure that these conversations don’t become platforms for complaining by challenging your team to develop creative solutions. Hold virtual brainstorming sessions where people can openly discuss challenges and share ideas. Then, have your team put those ideas into action by setting deadlines and sharing progress regularly at meetings.

To be truly successful, a company needs to incorporate innovation into their values. Additionally, leaders must stay educated on how to manage teams in ways that support innovation. The fact that remote work poses challenges to innovation provides an ironic opportunity for leaders, teams, and organizations to truly demonstrate their capacity for innovation. Due to the disruption of the workforce’s ‘regular workday,’ there are more opportunities to improve what we work on, how we work, and who we work with. Learn more on how to support your remote team’s innovation at the ‘Thriving In Ambiguity’ live online workshop.

Watch Ziksana’s Founder, Akshay Sateesh, provide an introduction to sparking creativity and innovation!

 

Learn the Game of 11 to break the ice at your next meeting or event!

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EMAIL US

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ADDRESS

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Team member Jim

Jim Babcock

Adjunct Facilitator

Connect with Jim

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Experience

Jim had a long and rich career with The Walt Disney Company that spanned 35 years. He joined The Walt Disney Company in 1986 as a Cast Member at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California. He spent a majority of his career in development and communication roles across multiple Disney businesses, including Disney Store, Disney Consumer Products and Disney Institute. In these roles, Jim facilitated numerous skill-building and team-building programs. He has led classes ranging from coaching, customer-service, presentation techniques and behavioral styles that provide a blend of instruction, exercise, and role-play while linking the debrief back to company-specific objectives.

Jim has also been a host for an array of events. Since 1989, he has hosted hundreds of internal and external events for Disney and other companies/non-profits with audiences ranging from 15 to 2,000. The events have included award presentations, fund-raising galas, red-carpet interviews, and televised home shopping appearances.

What I Do At Ziksana

Jim is a Faciliatator with Ziksana Consulting, providing Leadership Development training to public and private sector clients in areas of communication, coaching, trust, motivation and innovation. His humorous and relatable teaching style makes him a participant favorite and often-requested facilitator.

How I Like To Play

Jim enjoys performing in improv shows and going on adventures with his niece. Since moving back to Michigan in 2021, he has started working part-time at a bakery and absolutely loves it.

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Kelby Kupersmid

ZIKSANA FACILITATOR

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Experience

Kelby is a Global Business Leadership and Coaching specialist who brings positivity, curiosity, and intellectual rigor to all of his projects. His diverse professional background, from working at a pre-revenue startup to a multi-billion-dollar financial institution, informs his unique approach to workplace innovation and efficacy.

Kelby is also a Co-Founder of Innovation Journey, a company that organizes business trips to Israel to explore its unique innovation ecosystem. He serves as Director of Leadership Programs, designing and facilitating unforgettable learning experiences to help professionals lead innovation in their careers and organizations.

What I Do At Ziksana

As Founder and CEO of Kinetic Development, Kelby partners with local and global organizations to increase their leadership effectiveness so they can enhance business results. He draws on his multidisciplinary experience to find a targeted approach that works for each client, combining assessments, individual and team coaching, and large group facilitation.

As an Executive Leadership Coach, Kelby helps ambitious professionals refine their mindset and skillset so they can unleash their full potential. He helps clients “get out of their own way” by illuminating blind spots and challenging limiting beliefs. Through crystal-clear development goals and strategies, they accelerate leadership skills to improve performance and business outcomes.

Background

Kelby is a first-generation U.S. American born to Jewish-Argentinian immigrants. He was born and raised in Southern California, has worked and studied in Latin America, Europe, and Asia, and traveled to over 20 countries across 5 continents. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in International Business from San Diego State University and a Master of Science in Global Business Leadership from the University of San Diego. He also holds a Professional Certified Coach (PCC) credential from the International Coaching Federation.

How I Like To Play

Kelby is a lifelong musician, having played guitar and rapped in award winning jazz, orchestra, and rock bands. He is currently on a 6-month road trip across the US in an RV.

Team member Chris W

Chris Watz

ZIKSANA FACILITATOR

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Experience

Chris has influenced senior leaders to achieve greater impact in rapid growth organizations for over 15 years. He has experience leading a variety of change initiatives including leadership development, culture change, and end-to-end business process improvement. For 10 years, Chris managed continuous improvement efforts at World Vision International. He led projects to enhance collaboration, develop leadership bench strength, and streamline resource and information flow across 90 countries. In partnership with McKinsey, Accenture and Booz Allen Hamilton, Chris’s leadership and evaluation expertise helped two industry pioneering projects make critical adjustments to achieve greater return on investment. As a result, World Vision began operating more effectively at a global scale, during a time of rapid organizational growth.

Chris received his M.A. from Claremont Graduate University in Organizational Behavior Psychology and Program Evaluation. He also holds certificates in Project Management, Lean /Six Sigma (Green Belt), and Structured Behavioral Interviewing. Chris also founded Watz Productivity, a Consulting Company that uses data-driven solutions and coaching to support Executive Teams undergoing rapid growth.

What I Do At Ziksana

Chris is a Facilitator, Consultant, and Executive Coach with Ziksana Consulting.

How I Like To Play

Chris has worked and travelled in 44 countries, and loves rock climbing and photography while visiting new places. He is passionate about helping people find fulfilling careers that help them do the things they love most in and out of work.

Team member Kane

Kane Luong

GRAPHIC DESIGNER & WEBSITE DEVELOPER

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Experience

Born and raised in San Diego, California, Kane received his B.A in Graphic Design from San Diego State University. He began his career with San Diego State University and then started his own design studio. He has worked with many local clients which include, Goal Success, Pho Ca Dao, Zeroline Golf, Solarflexion and Therapies For Success. He has a passion for solving complex business problems through design thinking, and consistently strives for the betterment of his work.

What I Do At Ziksana

Kane is Ziksana’s graphic designer and web developer. He designs participant workbooks, presentations, and supports website development.

How I Like To Play

One of Kane’s favorite activities is playing badminton. He also enjoys trying out new food, exploring places around San Diego and finding new trails to hike. Kane loves to travel internationally, and wants to explore more of Canada!

Team member Courtney

Courtney Hale

EXPERIENCE DESIGNER & PLAY PRODUCER

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Experience

Courtney is a graduate of The Edward R. Murrow School of Communication and began her career in Broadcast News as a producer at Washington State University. From there, she moved to Los Angeles, California where for over 10 years, she produced, wrote, and developed television programs for The Weather Channel, SyFy Network, Fox Sports, Sony Pictures Television, ABC Disney, NBC and CBS. In addition, she oversaw all aspects of production and prepared daily production plans for operations and filming. She relied heavily on her communications and client relations background as a liaison between cast, crew, agents, managers, publicists, the studio and the network.

Courtney also worked for The Found Animals Foundation; a nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing the use of euthanasia in the United States. She was brought on as the program manager responsible for developing, managing and launching their National Microchip Program and free Microchip Registry, partnering with shelters, clinics, rescue groups and veterinarians. Her other responsibilities included developing and producing the foundation’s corporate videos that were shown at trade shows and conferences. In addition to that, she spearheaded the Found Animals Foundation Awards where she was responsible for all event logistics, promotions, and marketing.

What I Do At Ziksana

Courtney is the “producer of play” and likes to wear many hats. Some of her daily activities include designing innovative and impactful experiences for clients, helping lead internal culture initiatives, and producing company events & videos.

How I Like To Play

Courtney feels lucky to be a part of the San Diego Improv community where she gets to perform regularly. Courtney also enjoys exploring lesser-known festivals (avocado/margarita festival, anyone?), discovering new vacation spots with her family, trying out new dinner recipes, and writing Hallmark Holiday movie scripts just for the fun of it.

Team member Chris P

Chris Pizarro

PLAYFUL PROJECT MANAGER

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Experience

With three years of experience in the field of event and project management, Chris excels in filling a critical gap in the field of Leadership Development. He was hired by the Center for Creative Leadership in 2012 as a Program Coordinator, delivering programs throughout the United States and in Latin America for non-profit and Fortune 500 clients. In this role, Chris was responsible for all program logistics, serving as the primary point of contact for the delivery team and participants. He was later promoted to a Sr. Program Coordinator role, overseeing the San Diego campus’ Open Enrollment product line. Chris also spent 3 years as an Assistant Store Director for Sprouts Farmers Market, managing around 100 employees from entry level to first time managers.

What I Do At Ziksana

Since joining the team in 2018, Chris has been providing operational, communications, and business process support to Ziksana Consulting. He is the master of Project Management and enables Ziksana to deliver exceptional services to multiple clients.

How I Like To Play

Chris enjoys living locally in his hometown of San Diego, CA. He takes pride in his city and enjoys attending and supporting local sporting events. On his time off, Chris enjoys spending quality time with his wife, daughter, and two lovable dogs. His passion for barbecuing is unparalleled.

Team member Laura

Laura Fleig

ZIKSANA FACILIATOR

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Experience

Laura is a New-York native with a degree in Criminal Justice & Psychology from the University of Albany. She moved to San Diego in 2014 and began working as a residential counselor for youth in the foster-care system. During this time, Laura became deeply interested in how to create a therapeutic group environment where people could heal and grow.

In 2018, Laura began working in the field of Learning and Development as a group facilitator at The University of California, San Diego. Using a high-ropes course as an experiential learning tool, Laura has facilitated over 50 leadership and team development programs for children, young adults, and professionals. Additionally, Laura has been guiding and facilitating transformational outdoor adventures since 2018. Using lessons from the outdoors, she facilitates impactful experiences that help people grow both personally and professionally.

What I Do At Ziksana

Laura is a Designer, Facilitator, and Coach at Ziksana. She also runs Ziksana’s social media accounts.

How I Like To Play

Laura enjoys taking on challenging sports and activities that push her physical and mental limits. She can be found skateboarding down Mission Boardwalk, catching waves at Ocean Beach, and sport-climbing throughout the Western United States.

Ziksana Founder Akshay Sateesh

Akshay Sateesh

FOUNDER & PRESIDENT

Connect with Akshay

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Experience

Akshay started his career as a Business Development & Project Leader at DuPont’s BioMedical, where he led product development teams to launch medical device implants for surgeries. During his career at DuPont, he led two product development teams and developed collaborative partnerships to take the medical devices to market. His passion for leading others jump started his innovative approach to leadership development.

In 2008, Akshay combined his love for improvisational theatre and leadership by founding Ziksana Consulting. He began delivering playful workshops to biomedical companies, and quickly expanded to other industries based on Ziksana’s initial succees. Akshay has a M.A. in Leadership Studies and Group Dynamics, and is a Certified Stakeholder Centered Coach. He has facilitated programs in leadership development, innovation, and team dynamics for adults and children in the U.S., Malaysia, Singapore, Cambodia, India, and South Africa.

Akshay served as an Adjunct Faculty member for the Center for Creative Leadership in San Diego for over 5 years, as well as a Consultant for the Centre for Organization Effectiveness.

What I Do At Ziksana

Akshay is the founder of Ziksana Consulting, and serves as a Workshop Facilitor, Executive Coach, Experience Designer, and Keynote Speaker.

How I Like To Play

Akshay enjoys spending time with his young family and is known for his play versatility (he can play almost any sport and give you a run for your money). Apart from dancing in the car, playing a clown at his kids’ schools, and playing with strangers on his Nintendo Switch, Akshay loves photography, surfing, playing tennis, and diving with his wife, Brooke. He would like to spend more time developing his ukelele and magic skills.

A white man smiling in a green circle background

Akshay Sateesh

FOUNDER & PRESIDENT

Connect with Akshay

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Experience

Akshay started his career as a Business Development & Project Leader at DuPont’s BioMedical, where he led product development teams to launch medical device implants for surgeries. During his career at DuPont, he led two product development teams and developed collaborative partnerships to take the medical devices to market. His passion for leading others jump started his innovative approach to leadership development.

In 2008, Akshay combined his love for improvisational theatre and leadership by founding Ziksana Consulting. He began delivering playful workshops to biomedical companies, and quickly expanded to other industries based on Ziksana’s initial succees. Akshay has a M.A. in Leadership Studies and Group Dynamics, and is a Certified Stakeholder Centered Coach. He has facilitated programs in leadership development, innovation, and team dynamics for adults and children in the U.S., Malaysia, Singapore, Cambodia, India, and South Africa.

Akshay served as an Adjunct Faculty member for the Center for Creative Leadership in San Diego for over 5 years, as well as a Consultant for the Centre for Organization Effectiveness.

What I Do At Ziksana

Akshay is the founder of Ziksana Consulting, and serves as a Workshop Facilitor, Executive Coach, Experience Designer, and Keynote Speaker.

How I Like To Play

Akshay enjoys spending time with his young family and is known for his play versatility (he can play almost any sport and give you a run for your money). Apart from dancing in the car, playing a clown at his kids’ schools, and playing with strangers on his Nintendo Switch, Akshay loves photography, surfing, playing tennis, and diving with his wife, Brooke. He would like to spend more time developing his ukelele and magic skills.