Replacing Hallway Conversations in Remote Work Innovation (Video & Podcast)

6 min read
Conversations in Remote Work Innovation

Remote work innovation is fostered when companies establish techniques that support cross-functional connections, such as using collaboration software like Slack or Microsoft Teams to facilitate the exchange of new ideas. That’s the key take-away message of this episode of the Wise Decision Maker Show, which describes how to replace hallway conversations in remote work innovation.

Video: “Replacing Hallway Conversations in Remote Work Innovation”

Podcast: “Replacing Hallway Conversations in Remote Work Innovation”

Links Mentioned in Videocast and Podcast


Hello, everyone, and welcome to another episode of the wise decision maker show where we help you make the wisest and most profitable decisions. My name is Dr. Gleb Tsipursky, and I’m the CEO of disaster avoidance experts, the future of work consultancy that sponsors the wise decision makers show. And today we’ll talk about remote work spontaneous innovation. How do you make sure to address the challenges of innovation in remote work? Can you even innovate remotely, there are lots of companies that are supposedly very innovative like Apple and Google that claim that remote work stifles innovation. So for example, Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple says that innovation depends on spontaneous in person interactions, and therefore it requires everyone to be in the office. So there is some research that shows that remote work can weaken innovation, that research from MIT shows that weak ties between colleagues who aren’t on the same team, so not the strong ties between colleagues who are on the same teams. But these weak ties are inter team ties, not intra team times. These weak ties are really important for innovation because there’s cross disciplinary divides that facilitate collaboration on projects that are going to be innovative, different, distinct out of the box. And there is a Microsoft study that shows that remote work weakens innovation by harming weak ties there. So there’s definitely some research that remote work can weaken innovation. But there is also research showing remote work and strength and innovation. So research by McKinsey shows that remote work increased patterns and venture capital globally, in 2012, during the early part, and early and mid part of a pandemic, and 2020 and 2021. So there’s a whole bunch of new patents, and people who are working remotely, right. And there’s Deloitte research which highlighted that adapting innovation to remote settings, is what boosts innovation in hybrid and remote work. So while remote work can undermine innovation, that only really happens if you don’t adapt innovation, innovative practices, and processes and techniques to working in hybrid and remote work. If you try to just shoehorn innovation practices from the office into hybrid and remote work, you will fail, you will not do very well in innovation. But if you adapt innovation practices to remote work, that’s the ticket. That’s where you really will succeed. So what are these techniques for remote work innovation? We want to recognize that innovation is eminently doable, but it requires adopting best practices to address the cross functional weak ties. So that’s one issue that we talked about, and the lack of spontaneous interactions that breeds innovation. So we want to address both the weak ties and the spontaneous interactions. So let’s talk about these best practices that help address these problems. First, let’s talk about these spontaneous interactions. You can use software like Slack, or Microsoft Teams, or Trello, or Asana or Mondays, any project management and communication software to set up a specific channel or card whatever is the relevant venue of collaboration on the messaging platform communication platform, project management blog term that you use, dedicated to innovation, and encourage employees to use it effectively, to share ideas and then give feedback on ideas. And that will help facilitate spontaneous collaboration, which is what leads to innovation, which is what leads to creativity. So let’s talk about what this is. This is a technique I developed called spontaneous hallway interactions, virtual spontaneous hallway interactions. When someone has an idea, they share that idea in the channel for innovation. And you want to remind everyone to keep an eye on the channel. And it’s the notifications there, and to encourage quick responses to relevant ideas that someone shares. And so that can then lead to productive brainstorming sessions within the channel that can then expand into more broad and dedicated brainstorming sessions. But let’s without talking about the more broad and dedicated brainstorming sessions, that’s what happens after a spontaneous idea has been developed to a pretty good idea that you can then take forward. How does that happen in the first place? How do you get the germ of an idea? Well, you have a lot of benefits for these spontaneous virtual hallway interactions. So the spiritual health hub format that is native to virtual activities, helps that initial idea poster get recognition. So why do people post Why do they have ideas? Well, people have ideas but they really want to get recognized for them. Right? And that’s part of how your career goes. And that’s part of how you’re recognized as an idea generator as someone entrepreneurial. As someone creative, you get recognition for sharing your ideas. And then you also get credit for improving on someone’s ideas for giving feedback on those ideas, and all of that increases collaboration and innovation. So you want contributors to feel a sense of achievement. So contributing allows them to fulfill their natural desire to be helpful, and to help their team to help their business unit to help that organization. So you want the channel to be dedicated to a team to a business unit organization. So again, when I’ve helped 22 organizations figure out their long term hybrid and remote work. So configurations, and there are some that are team channels dedicated to innovation, that are business unit channels dedicated to innovation. And for smaller organizations, organization wide channels dedicated to innovation, because some innovation ideas will be relevant to the team, some to the business unit, and some to the organization as a whole. So the contributors contribute, because they’re motivated by the desire to help to share their ideas to improve things. And of course, to also get recognition, whether just in terms of brownie points from everyone else, recognizing them, or in some cases, appropriately financial recognition for ideas that get implemented effectively. And you’ll also want to think about personality. So different people have different personalities, people who are optimistic and pessimistic, let’s think about those. So optimists are people who are more likely to post their initial ideas, because their strengths are innovation, entrepreneurial thinking, and creativity, but they are blind. And I talk to someone who’s an optimist, I know that myself, I tend to be very intrapreneurial, very creative, very forward looking, and looking at all the benefits of ideas, but tend to be risk blind to their flaws. And so pessimists, by contrast, are likely to focus on improving the ideas, they’re building on ideas, they see its inherent flaws, and they can help address all those flaws and improve them. So that is their strength and you want to focus on praising both, you don’t want to only focus on praising the optimists are only focused on praising the pessimists. Because if you only include some but ignore others, that will cause leaders to make judgment errors about what the good ideas are, and harm the decision making process. So you want to praise both the contributions of the initial idea posters, who will tend to be optimistic and ag improvers who will tend to be pessimistic. Okay. So that’s the spontaneous interactions. What about cross functional ties, those weak ties. A big, big part of the solution is setting up mentoring programs, where you educate mentees on company culture, and encourage inter team collaboration. So those inter team weak ties, that is what will happen strengthen ties between staff, and that will improve integration and collaboration. So that’s remote, remote mentoring, it helps address that problem problem of cross functional ties, and improves the integration of recently hired staff at the same time, so kind of killing two birds with one stone, for many of my clients have hired a bunch of people during the pandemic, who I’ve never seen inside of an office. That is a big, big problem. How do you integrate recently hired staff, especially if you hire them across the country? Well, you can do remote mentoring. So should involve several mentors, not only one mentor, one mentor from the mentees own team, and that will help with the team’s own work with helping understand team dynamics, and a couple of mentors from other teams, which will facilitate inter team collaboration and help the mentee progress throughout their career. And that strengthens those weak ties among staff that’s very helpful for facilitating innovation. There’s a lot of positive outcomes and boosts innovation across the board from what I’ve looked at across a number of organizations with whom we study these issues. The mentor mentee relationships result in fresh new perspectives. And that’s really good for improving collaboration and innovation. And then mentors from outside the team spur those collaboration and innovation activities that help new ideas get implemented. So this is really helpful. Overall, you want to be thinking about what are the benefits of hybrid and remote work. There are some tasks that are best done in person: sensitive strategic conversations, key decision making and intense collaboration, those are things that are best done in person. In most cases, many other tasks can be done remotely fine, like spontaneous innovation, if you adapt the nine to virtual format, like spontaneous virtual Hallway Conversations, and those building of weak ties to facilitate innovation, like for remote mentoring programs, where you have a couple of mentors from outside the team, and so the future belongs to companies that minimize people’s time wasted in commuting and use humans resources across the globe effectively and adopt these best practices for doing so. Alright everyone, I hope you benefited from this episode of the wise decision maker show. Make sure to review the podcast wherever you check this out whether it’s iTunes or Amazon Video, Amazon or on YouTube. Please do so. And make sure to subscribe to this podcast so that you get the next podcast delivered automatically to you. Alright everyone, I look forward to seeing in the next episode of the wise decision maker show. In the meantime, the wisest and most profitable decisions to you, my friends.

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Dr. Gleb Tsipursky was lauded as “Office Whisperer” and “Hybrid Expert” by The New York Times for helping leaders use hybrid work to improve retention and productivity while cutting costs. He serves as the CEO of the boutique future-of-work consultancy Disaster Avoidance Experts. Dr. Gleb wrote the first book on returning to the office and leading hybrid teams after the pandemic, his best-seller Returning to the Office and Leading Hybrid and Remote Teams: A Manual on Benchmarking to Best Practices for Competitive Advantage (Intentional Insights, 2021). He authored seven books in total, and is best know for his global bestseller, Never Go With Your Gut: How Pioneering Leaders Make the Best Decisions and Avoid Business Disasters (Career Press, 2019). His cutting-edge thought leadership was featured in over 650 articles and 550 interviews in Harvard Business Review, Forbes, Inc. Magazine, USA Today, CBS News, Fox News, Time, Business Insider, Fortune, and elsewhere. His writing was translated into Chinese, Korean, German, Russian, Polish, Spanish, French, and other languages. His expertise comes from over 20 years of consulting, coaching, and speaking and training for Fortune 500 companies from Aflac to Xerox. It also comes from over 15 years in academia as a behavioral scientist, with 8 years as a lecturer at UNC-Chapel Hill and 7 years as a professor at Ohio State. A proud Ukrainian American, Dr. Gleb lives in Columbus, Ohio. In his free time, he makes sure to spend abundant quality time with his wife to avoid his personal life turning into a disaster. Contact him at Gleb[at]DisasterAvoidanceExperts[dot]com, follow him on LinkedIn @dr-gleb-tsipursky, Twitter @gleb_tsipursky, Instagram @dr_gleb_tsipursky, Facebook @DrGlebTsipursky, Medium @dr_gleb_tsipursky, YouTube, and RSS, and get a free copy of the Assessment on Dangerous Judgment Errors in the Workplace by signing up for the free Wise Decision Maker Course at