Creativity in the Metaverse: Is Distributed Innovation Possible?
Distributed and hybrid working is here to stay. But will metaverse technologies make the reality of future work better or worse for workers and their employers? Nick Rosier, director of content and digital at 2Heads, member of The Drum Network, investigates.
The idea that creative teams can thrive online has long sounded more like fantasy than reality. Most onboarding packs are packed with digital tools and platforms, but the sad truth is that most stifle creativity rather than unleash it.
Financial tools, timers, CRMs, Kanban boards – today’s digital business landscape is all about productivity, efficiency and measurement. Where does culture come into play? Where are communities built? Microsoft Teams and intranets have their place, but can we do better?
Maybe the metaverse is the answer.
As office rental spending declines, where can investments in the virtual world take us?
2022 will be the year companies invest in virtual and physical spaces for their teams.
The average cost of office space in London is over £500 per person per month. A 50-person office can cost upwards of £300,000 a year in rent alone. What would it look like if corporations invested, say, half of that in virtual spaces to create culture and happiness?
The opposite of creativity is uniformity. Current trends in digital tools for teams have brought us to a singularity of flat (or Swiss) design, with applications tapping into a restricted set of design rules and constraints. We are effectively building 1960s office cubicles for our online working lives: hyper-functional, but far removed from what makes us happy and creative.
The environment is fundamentally linked to creativity. Sparks of insight and seeds of ideas are born from immersion in nature or new experiences and environments. Could we create a passive experience of simply taking a virtual walk through a forest, or flying through a mountain landscape, as a setting for stand-ups, workshops or focus times? This kind of virtual reality (VR) immersion is increasingly present in healthcare patient recovery and rehabilitation settings. Could it also help exhausted teams and stressed individuals?
Platforms such as Mozilla Hubs and Spatial have led the charge in the development of collaborative virtual spaces. They tested the waters with some success and proved the use case. The tools used to create spaces on these platforms are still in their infancy and still need to evolve to allow the quality and immersion of 3D environments to come to life. To be an integral part of our working lives, they need integrations with apps from Adobe, Microsoft, Autodesk, and other day-to-day tools of the trade.
Connected Virtual Spaces as a Force for Good in Hybrid Workplaces
Health and wellness has long gained a foothold online with YouTube meditation, mindfulness apps, learning materials and mental health support. Relaxation is important for productivity. Without time to think, we spin the hamster wheel of work and end up being “busy fools”.
Digital wellness facilities help teams relax or stay in a positive state of mind between activities at work. It’s important to de-stigmatize and see the value of blank spaces in our calendars and celebrate free time, rather than endless back-to-back meetings.
The style and positioning of a virtual environment is a mirror of the values and the brand. Strongly themed spaces give new hires and prospects a strong sense of company culture from day one. We need to go beyond custom Zoom backgrounds to give our teams a sense of identity and common purpose.
Although the visual environment is an important piece of the puzzle, we must not forget the power of sound. Music can form some of the strongest memories and associations. A song can bring back vivid memories or put us in a certain state of mind. As a creative enterprise, music is essential for presenting ideas and creating strong emotional responses.
Music is a powerful part of experiences like going to a sports game, watching a TV show, or even turning on your computer. Repetition creates strong memories and associations. Designing music as part of a work-based metaverse could be used to trigger the best mental states for collaboration and innovation.
Accessibility and confidentiality
We must think about democratizing access to these spaces. Creating experiences for different senses helps make spaces inclusive.
Beyond physical accessibility, the workplace metaverse must be relevant and accessible to non-digital natives, and avoid creating age or cultural divides. Even more fundamentally, we must consider material investments. While wearing a VR headset for eight hours a day might be a far-fetched ideal, we can at least consider monitors, headphones, and even stereoscopic screens as a starting point.
Worries about being over-tracked, over-connected, and unable to switch off should be addressed from the start. Here, perhaps, a privately run enterprise metaverse has some advantages over a data-driven public metaverse like Meta.
Hybrid working has so much potential, and we are now at the forefront of this innovation. The technology is there, and it’s up to companies to take its potential seriously and invest. Natural selection will sort out gadgets from transformative experiences. Which one do you think will survive?