Q: What do you do to keep your team innovative when so many people feel wrung out from the pressures of having lived through COVID?
We always strive to keep our teams motivated and innovative through different initiatives and projects, so it was important to maintain this practice throughout the pandemic. In addition, our team members want to be part of something bigger than themselves, so we give them opportunities to apply technology in creative ways to real-world challenges. For example, we continued with activities like our internal hackathons while also launching new ways to connect, like our virtual tech meetups. Hackathons allow team members to work with others they may not have been able to collaborate with before and have the potential to see their creative solutions implemented and impact the business.
Q: How does remote work change how you approach innovation? Are there specific things that you do differently to inspire creativity and teamwork?
For IT, staying innovative and achieving goals through distributed teams is nothing new. We have always had teams working remotely, so fortunately for us, we have already learned how to engage virtual teams, ensure all participants are heard (no matter where they’re joining from), and sustain our creativity in a virtual environment. Over the past year and a half, we have been sharing our best practices with our company as a whole. These include taking inventory of key activities that add value when completed in-person and developing operating models that create consistency across different work environments. As leaders, we needed to change the conversation from talking about deliverables and status updates to asking questions about what team members have been doing to become more efficient in the way they are delivering.
Q: People often say that they have grown the most from the most challenging experiences. How has the experience of the past year changed you in ways you are grateful for?
The past year and a half have proven what our team can achieve amid adversity, and I am deeply grateful for the incredible dedication and flexibility that they displayed. Across our company, our team stood together, pushing toward our shared goal of supporting our customers in extraordinary circumstances. Team members were willing and able to adopt new ways of working while also finding creative ways to maintain our sense of “team” and unity, such as virtual water cooler time. In the past, we may have hesitated or prolonged the rollout of a new platform or program for fear that there would be resistance to change or other impediments. However, the pandemic demonstrated both for our team members in the business and our IT Team that even large-scale initiatives can be done remotely and well. Our teams from different functions and geographies have been able to pull together and find creative ways to stay connected and achieve their objectives collaboratively.
Karen Etzkorn is Chief Information Officer of Qurate Retail GroupSM. In this role, she leads information technology and digital strategy spanning applications, data, cybersecurity, and infrastructure to drive long-term growth, innovation, and productivity.