One of the things we know from the research on team performance is that getting great results from a team isn’t just about everyone getting along or coming to quick agreement. In fact, when the problems are complex or we need to push the boundaries for innovation, creative abrasion, which comes from the collaboration of diverse thinking styles and perspectives, can make the difference.
But it can also make people uncomfortable.
That’s why just having cognitive diversity on a team isn’t enough. If the process isn’t managed properly, the team can devolve into unproductive conflict, frustration and chaos.
Particularly in the case of highly diverse groups, an effective leader or facilitator is essential. The most successful team leaders value the differences on the team and encourage people to bring their best thinking to work, helping to both bridge the diversity of thought in the group and keep the Whole Brain® in mind so all perspectives are heard.
Here are some tips for managing the team’s collective brainpower and making the abrasion that sometimes occurs an advantage:
- Encourage team members to learn about and share their preferred thinking styles and discuss the impact of differences and similarities among team members on the performance of the team.
- Understand the strengths of the group and how the dominant preferences can be effectively harnessed towards reaching the team’s objectives.
- Recognize and bring in the diversity of thought necessary to get the best results.
- Use the Whole Brain® Model as a framework to guide the team’s actions. At the beginning of a project or periodically throughout the team’s engagement, ask questions from each quadrant, such as:
A. Do we have clear performance goals, objectives and measurements?
B. Do we have clear priorities, a plan and a timeline?
C. Do we have an understanding of our “customer” and each other?
D. Are we taking appropriate risks to challenge ourselves and come up with new ideas?
Don’t discount the importance of this key team role, whether it’s a manager, team lead, or even a more informal rotating assignment.
What are your tips for getting the most of a team’s cognitive diversity?