12 May 2021 by Ed

In the first instalment of Delivering Design at a Distance, we look at how remote work impacts on the power and process of creativity - plus the Top Five Takeaway Tips for Playing with Purpose.


In the first instalment of Delivering Design at a Distance, we look at how remote work impacts on the power and process of creativity.


Regardless of where your business currently sits on the risk register, decisions of how to adapt operations and offerings to meet the increasingly complex and diverse needs of your customers, and the speed and scale at which you do this, are going to be crucial to long term survival. So, how do you benefit from the technological disruption if your business hasn’t required it before, or perhaps resisted it?

Ellie Runcie, the BBC’s Chief Design Officer believes that design and design thinking has a massive role to play in keeping products, services and businesses relevant to their customers.  “Every organization on the planet is going through huge change, so it’s a real opportunity for design in the coming months and years. We can either feel daunted, threatened, or fearful of change, or we can embrace it. It depends on how we choose to view it... The value you're creating for people is really fundamental. So, I'm optimistic and hopeful that design has a clear and perhaps more critical role to fulfil in the next chapter.”

No-one knows that better than Pete Gordon, Chief Operating Officer of Waracle. “I needed to start earlier with the client. We call it the shift left. Not just starting with the problem but looking at whether the problem you think you’ve got is the actual problem. It depends how well the client understands their own issue. 

Richard Eisermann, Head of Design for Philips Connected Care, told us "we’ve unlocked this behaviour and we have to keep it alive. How do we keep it alive?’ And I don't think we have answers to that yet, but that's the conversation that's happening right now.”

Ruth Melville, an evaluation specialist and strategic development practitioner for the cultural sector, believes a twist of cruel irony is at the crux of the issue. “Not all creatives use their own creativity for themselves. Most projects fall down because the focus is on, ‘what we're going to do’. They don’t consider the why? What is the point of what's going to happen? The fact is, until you start by saying, what are we going to change? What's the point of our project? you’ll find it difficult to convince anyone else to get on board.”

In the full Playing with Purpose article you can read observations and insights on the same issues from others including Andy Walmsley (Wash Studio), Justin Knecht (What Could Be), Jonathan Ball (Designmine), Robert Owen (Blackpool Pleasure Beach) and Steve Gumbrell.



1. Frame The Challenge

If you want to play with purpose you have to frame the challenge at the outset. It’s important to frame the challenge from the viewpoint of its audience or end user so that the solutions you define and prioritise are deeply connected to their attitudes and beliefs rather than your own or those of your client. In this way, every problem becomes an opportunity for innovation and another chance for success.

2. Consider how you need to work in order to do your best work.

When delivering remotely, not everything needs to be done in collaboration with everyone via video conference. Think twice about what needs to be done face to face. Consider what could be done remotely – either asynchronously or collaboratively - and what could be pre-recorded and shared virtually. Keep information sharing and transactional stuff to email or workflow apps. Save the face to face (physical or virtual) for well-designed collaborative experiences or team check ins.

3. Get creative about being creative.

Creativity needs momentum and spontaneity, which are two things remote delivery make most difficult to achieve. Don’t just shift your offline work online. Look for different ways to reintroduce these important aspects of collaborative working to proceedings. Try walking meetings with colleagues (in line with social distancing rules) as a low-cost way to boost creativity.

Research into walking meets shows that they increase creative thinking, up to 60% by some estimates. Creative thinking usually results in more productive meetings. A change in setting can provide inspiration, more flexible thinking, or better problem-solving abilities. There are lots of other benefits to walking meetings, from improved individual health outcomes to better and more meaningful engagement between colleagues, to changing power dynamics within groups.

Additionally, bringing in external forces to switch things up or to punctuate extended online collaborative sessions can trigger new ways of thinking and seeing and allow people to take on different roles and voice different opinions within teams. Artists and creatives are incredibly skilled at creating connections through creative interventions and are particularly good at taking a different approach to workshops delivered over video conferencing and bringing the unexpected into digital proceedings.

4. Process is King. Experience is Queen.

An unexpected benefit of the shift to fully, or hybrid, remote delivery means that people now acknowledge the value of process in a way that they didn’t fully value it before. On the flip side, everyone we spoke to said that delivering remotely takes longer to prepare and it’s more complex to deliver, yet customers and audiences expect an equivalent or better experience than live delivery. For those who have invested their time to recalibrate processes for digital delivery and to truly understand where their value lies and how they can level up the experience they provide, the knock-on benefits have been considerable.

5. Make it easy. Make it accessible. Make it inclusive.

We need to be diligent about equipping everybody we’re working with (colleagues, clients and participants) with the skills and tools they need to operate, deliver and input digitally, so that nobody is left out or side-lined because they’re working and engaging remotely. Don’t just look at the gaps in workforce/client/participant skills and capabilities, take time to also consider the impact of individual disabilities or impairments that might challenge their ability to do their best work, as well as the environmental challenges of working from home. Take time to consider and resource the access needs of your colleagues. Consult with those who may need extra support in advance when planning collaborative work and events, and when recruiting for new roles.

What processes need to be in place to ensure everyone feels comfortable, confident and able to do their work remotely? What additional tech and software might they need to enable them to continue to work, collaborate and participate in team meetings? Are there new training needs? Inclusivity cuts across all of these aspects. If it’s not in place only certain people will have a voice at the table and be able to work remotely which results in a loss of diversity of thought and experience across the company or project.

 Look out for more articles over the coming weeks.

Article Download Link: /files/download/documents/Playing With Purpose Compressed 3.pdf

Join our mailing list

Keep up to date with the latest news