The Creative Work and Virtual Teams

Written by Joana Chemel | PICHA

When Covid-19 hit the world, a lot of businesses had to slow down, pause, and others had to fold up completely. However, PICHA managed to stay afloat. Right from the onset, PICHA was set up with the digital world in mind. This is not to say PICHA was not affected by the pandemic. Far from it. Creative industry companies were some of the biggest businesses to be hit, given the world shifting focus to ‘essential sectors’ like food and health. However, being a completely virtual company did PICHA a whole lot of good. Very key to this success and keeping PICHA afloat through the turbulent COVID-19 waters was the essence of a great virtual team and communication. Going digital and having less physical contact does not mean your company can longer exist. It does not mean the team can no longer function. It does not mean the unique abilities cannot be recognized. However, effort must be made to acknowledge every contribution. Before 2020, the PICHA team only met each other physically once in a year, during Strategy week, which is a week set aside to connect and review the strategies, impact and direction of the current and the upcoming year. Today, we share with you insight on the unique skillset we have which we encourage you to review in your own businesses.

The Visioneer 

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Josiane is based in Seattle, USA. As the visioneer, she sets the tone and the direction of PICHA. She creates and pursues the vision of being the leading organization championing the authentic Afrocentric visual narrative for Black or Afrocentric communities. It is her vision that brought the PICHA team together, because she knows the vision is bigger than her capacity, bigger than who she is and the goals she has set for herself. As a visioneer, she sees the need to allow others to buy into her vision, believe it for themselves, run with it and make it a legacy to outlive her. Building a company can be tough but you should not build a company without the clear vision and someone who at any point in time will carry the vision along. Likewise in the virtual space, it is important for companies to always identify the one who sees the bigger picture and ensure that he or she is being supported to keep the company alive. If you are the owner of the business, the one who carries the core vision, you will have to communicate your need for the team, your need for their skills, you will have to communicate the vision well to allow the team buy into it and run with it. That will be your only way of building the legacy that outlives you.

The Digital Plug and Planner

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As a business, moving digital means you cannot afford not having at least one person who understands and can maneuver their way around the digital tools. Lana is PICHA’s fantastic digital plug who is based in Cape Town, South Africa. She knows exactly what she’s about, how to go about things, why she does everything. Doubling as the planner of the team, she has an amazing way of breaking down the vision into chunks that can be taken up by the team. She is very intentional about her contributions, realistic and feasible about her target goals and timely with her delivery. She is deliberate in her approach to work, when to experiment and when not to and will often spend a great deal of time planning out a detailed schedule and strategy. She is a great deal of help to everyone in the team due to her impeccable planning and organizational skills. Every vision needs a strong plan to help the execution or implementation. Especially in virtual teams where it can be difficult to measure the actual hours of team members, a great planner will always be essential in ensuring productivity is still achieved. If you have moved your processes online and are having a difficult time keeping things together and delivering value on time,  it is necessary to identify the planners in your team and allow them to give the business vision and the team more structure and focus.

The Developer

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Development is a challenging task. It requires high level of creativity in creating necessary partnerships, business networks, client relations, keeping a high level communication skills and placing emphasis on the needed growth. For Henry who is based in Ghana, using his story-telling skills and remarkable interpersonal and communication abilities allows him to connect with different types and levels of stakeholders. From high end to low-end stakeholders, from pure image lovers to high profit business oriented clients, international to local partners, from impact focus to profit margins, he draws them in on specific needs. He develops the clientele for PICHA. As a business going digital, it is important to have a developer. Someone who knows how to cater to the specific needs of every planned area of the organization. Someone who knows how to combine the ability to communicate and tell the story of the business with the ability to influence the needed action from the client or customer. In building or transitioning into a digital business, it will be in your best interest to invest in a business developer who will drive the sustainable sale of the service or product you offer.

The Cross-checker

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When building or running a business, it is possible to make some mistakes which can be costly if care is not taken. Sometimes, it is just about taking up projects, campaigns, products and services that may or may not be in the best interest of your target market or target audience. Running a business with passion can possibly make businesses lose sight of the rules that apply and breach compliance. Guya is PICHA’s crosschecker who is based in Nairobi, Kenya. Her background in legal allows PICHA to run wild with ideas, campaigns, projects, services or offers without fear of illegalities, breaching contracts, or falling out with the law because she keeps the team in check. Guya knows her stuff and especially with a virtual team working in three different regions in Africa and two separate continents, she strives to update herself with legalities that safeguards PICHA’s interest and that of our target audience. From contributors who deliver the digital products, to PICHA delivering services and to customer concerns, she ensures that every interest is served and adhering to compliance guidelines. At PICHA, Guya sets the borders, advises on what lines we can cross and which ones we should not even draw. As a business going digital, there are rules and regulations guiding and safeguarding digital users. Ensure that your business has a cross-checker, one who safeguard the interest of all the stakeholders of the business. 

The Visualizers

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PICHA is a visual content provider. We will not exist without the visual content. With over one hundred content contributors from all over Africa and Afro Communities in the diaspora, we highlight the representatives of the contributor community. Kat, Mohammed, Rita and Emmanuel are the resident photographers of PICHA. They jointly oversee the regional content for PICHA. Kat is based in South Africa, Mohammed in Kenya, Emmanuel in Ghana and Rita in the USA. Finding ways to represent Afrocentric communities in all these different regions takes a lot of work. Based on the context differences that exist in customer preferences, they work independently and bring along the unique lenses through which they capture the authentic moments. However, they effortlessly work together when the need arises. The images and videos they produce is the fundamental product of PICHA. It is important to ensure that there are people in your virtual team who can help visualize the ideas, the vision, the plan, people who are key to your service or product itself. Without our resident photographers and the hundreds of dedicated contributors who provide the authentic images and videos we use to serve our customers, there would be no PICHA and no team. As you move your business digital, take note of your suppliers, are they also moving digital? How will your move affect their supply of your key service components? How will their challenges in the digital era affect your ability to meet demand? Are they able to continue helping you visualize the original idea or concept to serve your target market?

The Engaging Gatekeeper

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Teshie is naturally a social person so it is no surprise that she effectively runs the engagement strategies of PICHA to keep stakeholders of the business up to date with PICHA. As PICHA’s social media manager, she fluidly brings her social skills to play, actively ensuring that PICHA is well represented with an engaging online presence. Her digital social skills give PICHA room to explore different platforms that increase our connections with our community. She is PICHA’s gatekeeper, who keeps the gate between the organization and the world. She has ears in both worlds tells us what ‘people’ are saying about PICHA. Teshie also brings the fun along. Team fun times are curated by Teshie. Crazy  and exciting ideas to keep the team relaxed, unwinding and connected are part of her role. She has her way of getting team participation by taking the lead in the activities herself. As you go digital, it is necessary to keep the team engaged, fun and relaxed. Invest in a media manager as your gateway to the world and your business. Invest in a digital savvy and engaging social media expert who will ensure that your customer’s feedback and concerns are always heard. A gatekeeper who knows how to handle the pressure of the both the internal and external worlds. A gatekeeper who can tell you the perception of your business from the audience perspective and find a way to engage them to shift, influence or align these perspectives with the original goal of the business.

The Observing soundboard

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If you are reading this blog to this point, you should definitely know that a team member put it together. I am the observer. I love to observe, and echo what I am seeing from where I sit in Accra-Ghana to help ensure that we are communicating exactly what we think and know we want to communicate. As the soundboard, I also listen in and creatively articulate from the team to our target audience like you.  Most often than not, observers tend to be introverted. However, when given the room to express, they are able to give the team and the company relevant insights from their observations.  My role allows me to be creative with my ideas and run freely guided with my writing. If you have enjoyed this write-up, it is because I loved writing it and because I enjoy the environment PICHA has created to allow me to nurture my skills and grow. As a business going digital, you need to pay attention to the observers in your organization. They will share insights you need and will love expressing themselves with the vision of the business to your audience. It will be your responsibility to create that safe space and fertile environment for your team to grow.

As the world becomes more autotomized and highly digitalized, it will be in the best interest of businesses to refocus on the human resource/ human capital, the active skillset, the human-to-human interactions, the team dynamics, the unique assets that are relevant and available to the organization. This will ensure a more wholesome approach to growing and thriving in the digital era. Be on the lookout for the write up on Hybrid Work.

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