Tag Archives: Teaming

Communication: A must-have to get Innovation from Teamwork

Last month, both the New York Times Magazine and Quartz published articles regarding the recent findings of a Google study: That it pays to be nice to our teammates. Yes, it turns-out our friends at Sesame Street were right: Cooperation really does make it happen.

Both sources linked to a Ted Talk given by an old friend of ours, Novartis Professor of Leadership and Management at Harvard Business School, Amy Edmondson, whose own research has led her to similar discoveries about teamwork. In the talk, she says that, when working in teams, “Every time we withhold (a question, concern, or idea), we rob ourselves and our colleagues of small amounts of learning — and we don’t innovate”.

Did you catch that last bit?! It was pretty important. Her study revealed that when we don’t communicate, “we don’t innovate”. So, her research in this case focuses around creating a comfortable work environment, or as she calls it, a “psychologically safe” workplace where everyone on the team has a voice.

Of course, us green building industry folks have known about this for years – we call it “integrative design”, and it’s even been outlined by the United States Green Building Council as a possible credit toward the most up-to-date LEED certification.

In reading these articles and watching Amy’s Ted Talk, I couldn’t help but hear echoes from our 2013 interview with Architect, Bill Reed, another friend and iLiv advisor. Bill’s work with teams has given him superstar status on the green building circuit, and it’s no surprise that he and Amy’s work has brought them to similar conclusions. Back then, Bill told us, among other things, that we must be “co-learners” instead of “experts”. He said that “mutual learning” is imperative to a systems approach, and that it is necessary in order to find deep synergies — and to be truly innovative in teams.

Innovation is important. And it turns out that in teams, and on projects with lots of uncertainty, innovation won’t happen unless we’re nice and respectful of each other. We’ve got to learn to work well together, and that means communicating well together.

As a frequent collaborator and team leader, myself, I find this really interesting. And so, I plan to spend some time in the coming months looking deeper into how it is that we can get the most creativity from individuals on our teams. And, since we humans always want to improve, I will also look into how it is that we can ensure that individuals on our teams get the most out of our projects for themselves.

Can you think of a time on a team when you wanted to ask a question, or had a certain concern, or an idea, but didn’t feel comfortable enough to stand-up and voice it? I sure can. Please share your experiences in the comments section – Amy’s work tells us that sharing these stories (“acknowledging your own fallibility”) is a building block of psychological safety, after all. In the meantime, I’ll be looking forward to opening-up and learning more about the world’s latest, greatest, approaches to teamwork, communication, and innovation.

 

Teaming, Innovation, Amy Edmondson, and iLiv

Teaming is a term used to focus attention on the activities of people working together in teams. It’s different from the word teamwork, which merely distinguishes the type of work done by people in teams as opposed to solo work or work between principals and assistants.

I have come across the term recently like an old friend; indeed, through an old friend: Amy Edmondson worked with Buckminster Fuller in his final years, just as I did with John Cage, and I met her through my connection to Bucky, which sprung from my tensegrity sound source performances.

Turns out Amy has been researching for 20 years how teamwork is changing in and of itself, as well as how organizations are changing to be more teaming-oriented. She teaches these ideas at Harvard Business School, and she published a book on the subject in 2012.

Teaming: How Organizations Learn, Innovate, and Compete in the Knowledge Economy, Amy C. Edmondson, Edgar H. Schein, ISBN: 978-0-7879-7093-2

Teaming: How Organizations Learn, Innovate, and Compete in the Knowledge Economy

Here’s a brief exploration of how iLiv and Amy’s ideas relate:

Edmondson on Teaming iLiv
Teaming is an active process iLiv All-In is an integrative process collaboration and communication platform
Imagine a fluid network of interconnected individuals working in temporary teams Each All-In Project is organized as a set of events assigned to one or more roles; those who accept responsibility for a project role can come from any organization, discipline, or geographic region, and their active involvement can cover only a part of the project’s overall time span; each new project has its own set of team members, and the evolution of the team over time is easily accommodated.
Teaming blends relating to people, listening to other points of view, … This emphasis on relationships and listening is what our friend and partner Bill Reed is all about.
…coordinating actions, and making shared decisions. The All-In Time pod is built for event coordination, know-how sharing, and decision capturing.
The purpose of teaming is to expand knowledge and expertise so that organizations and their customers can capture the value. The value proposition of All-In is: for the owner, project success (ROI); for the domain expert, a better, self-improving process; and for all project participants, increased creativity and productivity.

And I found these complementary concepts in just the first few pages of Amy’s book!

As all iLiv fans know, our work in software development draws heavily on our past in the performing arts. In dance, music, and theatre, groups are often made up of individuals who have worked together for many years. But just as often, groups are formed for shorter periods (a run of a play) or even for brief encounters (a musical performance).

Teaming highlights—for more traditional organizations—the temporary aspect.

Conventional management often struggles with ephemeral organizational entities, based as it is on the assumption that the organization is supposed to be founded, grow, and reach maturity over many years and decades.

This pull towards perceived stability is a serious risk factor in the current economic environment. The best ideas, and the best products and services, are more often than not born these days of rapid, interdisciplinary, creative processes that bring together people from all over the know-who, know-what, and know-how map.

Teaming describes the dynamics of these one-off collections of individuals, and All-In caters to them with utilities that support their particular qualities and needs. Both can contribute to upper management’s following and understanding of these critical creative production units.

This is only our second post, but already it introduces a category we will expand upon rapidly: the iLiv Reading List. Check back often for more.

And read Teaming!