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Learning to Keep the Creative Flame Burning Amidst the Covid-19 Lockdown

The outbreak of COVID-19 and the lockdown that ensued has got everyone scrambling for their comfort work zone at home. It definitely has its advantages – zero commute, thus no more dealing with the traffic, which in turn leaves several precious hours free for oneself and for family; and don’t forget the joy of working in pyjamas once in a while.

However, marketers, and the creative teams especially, are having a tough time getting their creative juices flowing in this period of stagnancy. No more team meetings, no more informal brainstorming over a cup of tea, and no more white-boarding. The emerging New Normal of sitting alone at the kitchen table, ideating upon concepts in silos, is often not in the comfort zone of creative people.

The founder of Apple, Steve Jobs, once outright dismissed the idea that the creative process can be developed via virtual means, such as email or chat. “Creativity comes from spontaneous meetings, from random discussions. You run into someone, you ask what they’re doing, you say ‘wow,’ and soon you’re cooking up all sorts of ideas,” he had said.

But surely there are lessons to be learnt from this unique scenario where we are thrown into an unfamiliar territory by default, not by design. The experience of dealing with the situation might just present us with a revelation on how work might look for us in the near future.

So, the question that arises now is how to enable creative folks to work together in this dispersed, unconventional environment? How to foster a collaborative and inventive workspace virtually, without the regular chai breaks and water cooler discussions?

The experience of dealing with a lockdown situation in the last two months has underlined the fact that it is indeed possible to recreate the culture of creativity-in-collaboration virtually.

Here are a few tips that will aid this transformation:

It’s a no-brainer that the use of technology and collaborative tools is imperative in making remote working effective. Use technology not just for exchanging emails or files. Instead, invest in leveraging the right technology tools to connect visually. Choose a tool which is seamless with minimum lag time to ensure a smooth ideation process. Make sure your team sees you every day, in your best possible attire, with a work setup that will motivate other team members.

We don’t have all the answers yet. Testing and experimenting with tools to find the best fit for your team is the way forward. It is important that a culture of exchanging feedback is created in order to arrive at the best decision. The system of feedback will allow team mangers to be cognizant of the issues being faced by colleagues. Dig deeper for individual feedback to identify the best suited work environment for creative folks in order to enhance their efficiency.

While in an office environment, work schedules are prioritised by default, since the distractions of a home environment are non-existent. When working from home, the creative process may get hijacked. Setting a mutually accepted deadline for a particular project will help employees streamline their schedules better. Have a single point person driving a project and be clear of the expected timelines. If need be, clearly lay down the order of priority for each project. It will help creative professionals be more aware of the particular capabilities that are being called upon, and will thus help them commit to deliverables based on practical assessment of individual abilities.

To drive creative efficiency, the best way is to recreate the informal setup of colleagues working together and deriving joy in that interaction, into the limited confines of a laptop window. It is completely acceptable to pad virtual meetings with elements of socializing. In fact, these long conversations may just be that critical element in getting the ideas to flow. One can maybe also organise virtual bonding sessions at the end of each day for a casual banter over pets, kids, cooking, or new hobbies people have picked up while in lockdown.

Steve Jobs may not have bought on to the idea of remote working for creative professionals. It was a different time and age, after all. But his company sure has. The video montage released by Apple during the lockdown, is proof of the same. The video shows people executing digital art on iPads, editing videos on MacBook, exchanging creative ideas over FaceTime, and so on. The message: ‘Creativity Goes On.’

It sure does. So, go on and embrace this change. And while you are at the kitchen table, make yourself a nice cuppa to reboot your creativity.