9 Factors Influencing Creativity in Virtual Design Teams


Creativity (Photo credit: Mediocre2010)

Creativity is always a topic of interest across various disciplines and especially so in the field of management with the shift towards virtual teamwork. Managers/executives are interested to find out more about virtual configurations and how they alter some of the management practices based on the collocated workplace.
In a recent paper, researchers Petros Chamakiotis, Elies A. Dekoninck and Niki Panteli uncovered 9 factors that influence creativity in virtual design teams:

1. Individual-Related – there is a need for teams to have one or two naturally creative individuals.

BLM Managerial implication: Executives have to ensure the presence of such individuals who will contribute to the overall process with their creative juices.

2. Communication, Engagement and Organizational Skills – Oral and creative skills have to be evident. High task engagement and the show of initiative is also important, to be coupled along with coordination.

BLM Managerial implication: Executives have to coach and employ skills to ensure that these elements resonate within the team to stir productive creativity.

3. Education- and Experience-Related Knowledge – refers to relevant knowledge and mastery of subject matter.

BLM Managerial implication: encourage knowledge sharing among members. To kickstart such processes, a level of trust and bonding is necessary. If the group has a central leader, he/she has to take charge by getting the ball rolling on his/her end. If a shared leadership, harness the momentum by getting members on board the sharing process; be a driver of change.

4. Team-Related Creativity – Designs which emerge within a team situation, eg., brainstorming, coaching, generated earlier, etc.

5. Geographical Dispersion & Heterogeneity – Geographical dispersion reduces teamwork as well exacerbates participant differences. Heterogenity on the other hand, may result in misinterpretation of concepts and ideas.

BLM Managerial implication: Subgrouping – It is therefore necessary to employ cultural sensitivity, good management and the right leadership style to increase teamwork and reduce differences. Subgrouping refers to knowledge sharing, and the germane distribution of tasks while mitigating the negative effects of geographical dispersion and heterogeneity.

6. Stronger Voices – Some voices overpower others and cause disappointment when not all voices are heard.

7. Leadership Styles – the VDT has a lifecycle. Thus far, three forms of leadership have been effective in leading VDT teams, namely, emergent (allowing new leaders to emerge during the lifecycle of the VDT), participative (collaborative) and motivational (coaching) centered leadership.

BLM Managerial implication: It is necessary to allow the leadership style to evolve according to the lifecycle stages of the VDT and to be applied appropriately to ensure their success.

8. Technology – This provides the platform to help overcome geographical dispersion and time differences.

9. Synchronicity/ Asynchronicity
– refers to the fostering of a spirit of commitment towards creative processes and the sharing of ideas irrespective of teammates’ availability. On the flipside however, once these turns artificial, there will a loss of focus and a loss of track of technical issues or due to additional activities correspondingly.

BLM Managerial implication: Leaders have to take charge to ensure that these elements remain authentic so that engagement can build momentum for the team.

From: Petros Chamakiotis, Elies A. Dekoninck and Niki Panteli, 2013, “Factors Influencing Creativity in
Virtual Design Teams: An Interplay between Technology, Teams and Individuals: paper published in CREATIVITY AND INNOVATION MANAGEMENT 22(3)

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