Research finds innovation can thrive when remote teams feel empowered to share ideas and engage in rigorous debate

Authors of the research from l-r: Esther Tippmann, Professor of Strategy, University of Galway, Mark Gantly, Adjunct Professor of Management, University of Galway and Pamela Sharkey Scott, Professor of Strategy and International Business, Dublin City University.
Apr 20 2021 Posted: 10:33 IST

Research on Driving Remote Innovation is published in MIT Sloan Management Review

Research from the J.E. Cairnes School of Business and Economics in collaboration with Dublin City University has been published in the prestigious US publication, MIT Sloan Management Review. The research 'Driving Remote Innovation Through Conflict and Collaboration' examined how business leaders can promote innovation in remote teams.

The research uncovered two complementary principles of leading remote teams for innovation - connecting for collaboration and connecting for contradiction – which are both essential to creating opportunities for innovation.

In the absence of face-to-face interactions, the research suggests that leaders must purposely connect with their immediate team members one-to-one, to enable more engaged exchanges of collaboration required for innovation and understanding and responding to the individual challenges of team members.

Remote working can be a boon for innovation by enabling greater diversity of views, supporting connecting for contradiction. Virtual conversations can include external experts and remotely located colleagues as they are much more cost- and time-efficient to organise than in-person meetings. This tactic of exaggerating differences in opinions and expertise is required to encourage more vigorous debate and stimulate fresh ideas for innovation in remote working.

Operating in tandem, these two approaches ensure that leaders create a virtual culture where new ideas arise, the most promising of which can be translated into innovative outcomes to help ensure the long-term success and delivery of the organisation's strategic goals.

The study was led by Esther Tippmann, Professor of Strategy at University of Galway, Pamela, Sharkey Scott, Professor of Strategy and International Business at DCU and Mark Gantly, Adjunct Professor of Management at University of Galway.

To better understand the long-term implications of the Covid-19 pandemic for leadership, the research team collected detailed interview data from 20 leaders in different household name US multinationals across the world. They included a mix of young, high-growth organisations and well-established global giants, and firms with digital and physical offerings. They examined what the leaders saw as the long-term implications of the pandemic on their organisation (if any) and what leadership competences they foresee as most important.

Professor Esther Tippmann, University of Galway, said: “Organisations have traditionally relied on the energy of co-present teams to stimulate ideas for innovation. Before the pandemic, many leading innovative organisations invested heavily in attractive workplaces. However, office work had to be abandoned when the Covid-19 pandemic demanded an incredibly fast transition to remote working. Now, it is clear that remote working, in a managed way, is here to stay. With productivity goals being largely met, we found that many organisations find it challenging to embed innovation in their remote teams. So, the leadership principles for driving innovation in remote teams offer explicit guidance for leaders. We studied multinationals located in Ireland. However, the principles are of relevance to all types of organisations where remote working is an integral part of the organisational model.”

To read 'Driving Remote Innovation Through Conflict and Collaboration' in MIT Sloan Management Review, visit:


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