Blogs by InnovatorsBox®

AAPI Spotlight: 4 Ways to Innovate More While Having Less Meetings (Even Remotely)

Originally published in: WBENC

During Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, WBENC is celebrating the immense contributions Asian American and Pacific Islander women entrepreneurs have made to our nation and the WBENC network. Check back for more AAPI Spotlight posts this month, brought to you by the WBENC Women of Color Program. We invite you to champion and uplift AAPI voices with us this month.

A year ago, if you asked me how we can innovate or build team comradery remotely, I wasn’t really sure how. While I had my team working remotely, all my workshops and consultancy were delivered in person and I wasn’t used to seeing others successfully innovate while working online.

Now a year into the pandemic, I’m recognizing how my philosophy and execution of innovation has always been the root of our success and how it has played a key role in our growth over the last 14 months.

We’ve grown as a business but also grown deeper trust within our multigenerational team even remotely, and yes, without having any weekly meetings. I promise that you can do this too – whether as an entrepreneur or as a procurement leader leading innovation. So where to start? Designing intentional space from the top down in how you set your meeting, ideas, and workflow matters.

1. IDENTIFY WHERE ALL EMPLOYEES CAN SHARE IDEAS ANYTIME (AND GET CREDIT)

Is that a slack channel? In a meeting? Bulletin Board? Have a clear, safe, virtual (and physical place when returning to the office) where people can share their ideas out loud so that they don’t have to wait until a monthly All-Staff-Meeting to bring up a suggestion. Suggestion Boxes are great but sometimes credits are not attributed properly. Think of the full flow of what you are promising – that an idea can be shared and, when shared, appreciated and recognized. Another way to think is if you were a new employee, would you feel it is easy to know where to contribute? If it’s not clear, there is still room to redesign.

2. BUILD A MEETING CULTURE TO BE HOME FOR THINKING AND LEARNING

Everyone is already overbooked but we feel even more tired when those meetings feel like we could have done this over email or Slack. Why are we spending time being present and going around updating? Build a meeting culture where you only book it if it could help stimulate new insights and be a space of thinking, ideation and learning that maximizes everyone being fully present. Then showing up to a meeting is not only exciting but also a practice of team members thinking differently, listening, and learning how to contribute new thoughts.

3. DESIGN WORKFLOW WITH BOTH STRUCTURE AND FLEXIBILITY

It feels like an oxymoron, but having both limit and abundance is key to innovation. This is why often when you give five minutes to ideate, the last minute is when we ideate the most crazy ideas as we let our minds be more open to thinking out loud without judging ourselves. This is why, as a leader, you want to intentionally design your workflow. Where is there space to include exploring different ways of doing a project and where can you clearly communicate what the boundaries are? For instance, while we may try three ways to host this event, you can communicate clearly this is the budget and when we need to release the event day to participants and ideate all the options based on that. When team members know what the boundaries and ideation sandbox are, it feels a lot more comfortable to ideate because they know why certain things are not do-able. It comes across less as “my boss is discouraging me again because I spoke up” because they are aware of the boundaries.

4. THOUGHTFUL CONSTANT COMMUNICATION TO BUILD TRUST

Trust is important. Innovation requires risk and doing something differently. How easy would that be if you feel like your colleagues do not have your back? Trust building online takes even longer, but it is so important to not rush it. As a leader, you want to demonstrate by how you speak. When you delegate tasks, do you trust that they will do it and how do you communicate it? When your team member shares a disagreement, how do you listen in trust that he or she meant good intention? How you model trusting behavior is the feedback loop for team members to know this is a trusted safe room to innovate, share new ideas, and daringly take risks.

This all takes time, yes, but with intention, the impact is tremendous. Not only will you be able to see more innovation, but you’ll be able to do more with less. As you demonstrate to your team how you can build trust, do something different, and how to do that while cutting unnecessary meetings, you can have the power to innovate and build a workplace that wants to innovate. It’s all in how you lead.

I can’t wait to hear how it feels for you to innovate more while freeing yourselves from unnecessary meetings. That’s a feeling I hope you walk in with every day at work.

About the Author

Picture of Monica H. Kang

Monica H. Kang

Monica H. Kang, Founder, and CEO of InnovatorsBox® and Author of Rethink Creativity is transforming today’s workforce through the power of creativity. She helps companies rethink culture, leadership, and team development by making creativity practical and relatable regardless of industry or job title. She has worked with clients worldwide including Fortune 500 companies, higher education, government, and nonprofits. Monica’s work has been recognized by The White House, Ashoka Changemakers, National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC), and Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC). Prior to InnovatorsBox®, Monica was a nuclear nonproliferation policy expert. She holds an M.A. from SAIS Johns Hopkins University in Strategic Studies and International Economics and a B.A. from Boston University.

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