Remote Work and the Start Up Ecosystem

“Successfully working from home is a skill just like programming, designing or writing. It takes time and commitment to develop that skill.” – Alex Turnbull

It’s been a common phrase and exclamation in our work environments that remote work, work from home or hybrid work is here to stay. This is true to some extent especially with the current raging pandemic that has swept us off our feet. We’ve got to hang on in there and hope we get to master the ropes of this new normal. As evidenced from my previous posts, you definitely have a grasp of it that I believe in the power of business to drive and deliver good in the communities in which they operate. Basing on this, businesses rely on processes, people and products/services which align to achieve an ultimate outcome. At the core of this dynamic web is creativity and innovation. Having written about the value of an enabling ecosystem to foster innovation, creativity and ideation over the last couple of months especially with keen interest in Stanford University that has established an ecosystem that brought to life the greatest of corporations we can imagine in the current day i.e. Netflix, Google etc. Having witnessed first hand the creativity and ingenuity that lies in people until ignited I believe that there is more to be realized from innovative ecosystems. This then brings me to the gist of this piece today. Remote work is gaining traction all over the world, corporations going lean on office space and some organizations even cancelling their lease agreements altogether with transition to remote work. As much as this new way of working has benefits, I am convinced there is a catch to it especially for start ups.




Working remotely means you with utmost certainty understand what’s expected of you, get to work on it and deliver on your KPIs. It’s standard. This is more likely to work for corporations where individuals work with established systems and there’s limited gray area where they still need to figure out what’s to be done in ensuring the running operations keep on delivering on their mandate. There are defined operating procedures, working instructions and manuals for each and every process in the corporation. On the flipside, start ups have almost zero processes especially in the early stages where there are lots of testing, launches and tweaks on the solution being developed. Most of these processes in a start up ecosystem would need physical interactions especially with team members getting to catch up on tasks, brainstorm and in the process of day to day interactions within the work environment generate ideas which are thrown around, tested and if viable adopted in improving their key offering. With remote work, such opportunities are limited and probably the kind of solutions we can generate in the occasional meet-ups may not be the ones we would have generated over successive interactions which was offered by physical work. Using this as a case, I believe start ups will need to invest in physical interactions within the team in efforts to foster a team culture, stimulate thought-processes and generate new ideas. The same applies for established corporations that are keen on innovating and establishing new offerings in their portfolio.

Having founded an organization in the recent past, I’ve been faced with challenges getting a hold of the operational efficiencies, stimulating creativity within the team and most importantly ensuring we are able to think through the new ideas that are generated. It’s work in progress but physical interactions is one of the ways I envision this can be improved on with a clear goal of stimulating creativity. In situations where stand alone offices are not a feasible option for start ups, I believe co-working spaces offer a solution, they offer the amenities that one would need while the models available in the city still have shortfalls. Most pitch themselves as creative spaces but to the contrary are boring sitting spaces with supply of refreshments and overly priced printing services. In a recent discussion with a colleague and friend, we debated the future of innovation hubs and co-working spaces and came to an agreement that there is need to use these as places to stimulate thinking around crazy, stupid and outrageous ideas because in these we are able to get the ones that stick. These are the ones that will transform industries of the future. Considering social and economic dynamics of it, I’ve come to the conclusion that the best innovation hubs we will ever have need to be instituted within universities. University incubators have the potential to revolutionize industries through innovation as there is a pool of intelligent students with little to worry about, a mentally stimulating environment with access to requisite resources. The missing piece for these to work is the strategic direction, vision and follow through (leadership). I hope and wish that our universities will do better in the days to come and that innovation hubs/incubators rather than waiting on already formed ideas would open doors to raw ideas and encourage collaboration in their spaces.

In the next article I’ll write about an alternative approach I’ve heard being advocated for in improving access to and uptake of mental health services in the form of community centers. Key will be how to position them as creative spaces to stimulate innovation and to deliver value in the communities.

Ps. We are working on a transition to an independent website as we continue our journey of learning and growing together. Stay tuned:)

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