The past couple of years have seen the normalisation of remote and hybrid working practices, and with them came virtual meetings … lots of them. We have grown accustomed to our diaries bulging with Zoom, Teams and Google Meet sessions, allowing us to connect with our teams and colleagues from the comfort of home.
Many businesses have started to worry though that the lack of physical interaction during virtual meetings is subduing teams’ creativity, and whether this means the writing is on the wall for the great experiment of hybrid and remote working practices.
A recent study cited in the journal Nature suggests that virtual meetings can indeed stifle idea generation when compared to in-person groups, due to the narrowed visual focus of a screen.
With a recent Flexjobs survey indicating an overwhelming preference for remote and hybrid employment, virtual meetings are likely to be the default for years to come. But don’t panic: there are ways for team leaders to facilitate creativity during virtual discussions. Here are three good ones:
- Ask leading questions.
Asking a few “how abouts” and “what ifs” is a great way to trigger creative thinking and idea generation. Such questions practically give implicit permission for people to agree, object or present an alternative. They let people think differently and in a more engaging way than a “what do you think” question.
- Use idea generators.
Idea generators are stimuli that help switch on that figurative mental light bulb. Pictures, words, videos or even random objects can work in this regard, and you can present them alongside a question inquiring what your participants think of them. Doing so lets participants have fun generating ideas while relaxing the meeting’s flow.
- Consider different thinking styles.
There are two kinds of people: brainstormers who get ideas from the cacophony of thoughts during discussions, and people who’d rather take in the information given to them and reflect internally to come up with something. You can accommodate both through brief but quiet thinking times and brainstorming sessions.