“Home working had probably reduced his capacity for creative thought. Informal chats at work were often more useful than formal meetings.” are statements by Andy Haldane, Bank of England’s chief economist. He added that “creativity was important because it fostered innovation, which in turn fueled economic growth”. He is wrong to conclude that remote work is bad for innovation. Here is why:
1) Innovation is fueled by team creativity, but creativity is not fueled by physical presence. Big part of creativity, inventions, and innovation happens without physical presence. Scientific research is a good example.
2) Haldane is expressing his own limitation which does not reflect the real global trend. He holds a top banking position which unfortunately is not a position of high innovation and change, but of status quo. Reality is that during the pandemic, remote work and innovation have grown drastically together.
3) Innovation methods for remote teams have been available for decades and even centuries, with results far greater than any single bank produced. My favorites are early 20th century circular letters.
4) Lack of requirement for physical presence allows companies to engage talent which is not accessible physically. This makes the innovation process more inclusive and diverse. Limiting innovation to physically present talent is exclusive and closed.
Remote work is most likely to remain a lasting change after the Coronavirus crisis. Germany, for example, is already adopting remote work as a basic work right. Major companies have committed to remote work as a standard.
While adopting remote work companies must maintain competitiveness by innovating. To do so they must look beyond old and closed methods such as physical meetings, but must work to find new solutions. There is no better test for a company to show how innovative and adaptable it is, than how it handles remote work.