Assess Your Team

4 Common Innovation Roadblocks—And How to Get Over Them

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A recent Harvard Business Review article reminds us that while it’s natural to look for consensus, you’re actually better off looking for contention if you want to make the big, bold moves that fuel innovation.

Our research and experience back this up, particularly from a thinking standpoint. When people are on the same “mental wavelength,” there’s little confrontation of opposing concepts and ideas. That means no matter how much time is allocated, the team will typically come back early with a solution and say it would be counterproductive to spend any more time on it.

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How to Get Value from a Team’s Thinking Diversity

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Trying to navigate a thorny issue? Need an innovative solution? Looking for a way to help your team dig deeper and really flex their thinking muscles?

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Expect Difference: 4 Tips for Valuing Thinking Diversity

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Whole Brain Business Book is that no matter who you’re interacting with, whether it’s at work or at home, when it comes to thinking preferences, expect difference.

Sure, it’s often easier to work with someone who has similar thinking preferences to your own. It’s as if you operate in your own shorthand, and you instantly seem to “get” each other. But it’s not always possible, or even likely, that you’ll be surrounded by people who prefer think like you do. In fact, our data shows that difference is more often the norm.

This is a good thing! In fact, a study of teams with the US Forest Service found that when you have difference in a team—and that can be a difference in thinking styles, gender, age or other factors—the team is 66% more effective. And we certainly know from our research that you can get a lot more creative output from a group of diverse thinkers.

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It’s Time to Rethink Your Team Performance Model

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Teams have become the driving force in many organizations today. We’re relying on their collective intelligence to solve problems faster, come up with more innovative ideas and deliver higher quality results in less time. But as we all know from our own team experiences, it’s not as simple as just bringing people together.

While many of the traditional activities and behavioral models designed to enhance teamwork and collaboration “make us feel good,” as Margaret Neale, professor of organizational behavior at Stanford's Graduate School of Business, points out, “What they don't do is improve team performance.”

In fact, according to a survey of 1,000 employees in the UK, they often “only succeed in leaving staff feeling more awkward about dealing with their colleagues.”

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Research Reveals Keys to Increasing Team Productivity

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How do you increase the efficiency of a group of people? How do you get more output from your existing human resources?

Those were the questions Charles G. DeRidder and Mark A. Wilcox examined as part of a six-year research study they conducted with the USDA Forest Service.

The premise of their study was that a diversity of thinking would help teams reach new performance benchmarks. Using the Whole Brain® Model as the foundation for their work, along with thinking style data from Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument® (HBDI®) assessments, they documented significant improvements in efficiency and effectiveness when teams were designed to include a balance of thinking preferences.

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Tips for Leading Cognitive Diversity in Teams

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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.

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What Makes a Team Work

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One thing that’s becoming clear in today’s VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous) world is that effective teams can give organizations a distinct advantage. They bring together the people power and the thinking power to get things done faster, more efficiently and more successfully.

But we also know it’s not as simple as that. There’s a reason less than a quarter of workers prefer to work on teams.

Are more team-building activities the answer? Sensitivity training? Personality and communications workshops?

These activities can be helpful, but on their own, they’re not enough. The frustrations, miscommunications, subpar results, and same issues that keep coming up, time and again, bear this out.

The problem is that too many organizations try to build trust — a key attribute of effective teams — by focusing on behavioral issues first. But because behaviors can be affected by a variety of external factors, the fix is often only a temporary one at best. To build trust, we have to focus first on what drives the team’s behaviors and actions at the root level: thinking.

Missing this key ingredient means organizations will also miss out on the full potential, power and competitive advantage teams can provide. Particularly in today’s world, as cross-functional teaming increases, more team members operate virtually and globally, and projects and problems are becoming more complex, a focus on how the team thinks will become even more critical to developing exceptional, consistently high-performing teams.

We’re creating teams to bring together and then funnel the knowledge and skills of the members towards solving business problems and achieving business outcomes. While teambuilding exercises can build camaraderie, and personality and sensitivity workshops can develop interpersonal understanding to help improve communications, none of these can really take hold without a foundation in how the team’s collective intelligence fuels business outcomes.

And after all, achieving business outcomes is what they’re there for, right?

Our next white paper will address key ways you can apply a thinking-based approach to get the most from every “meeting of the minds” so you can truly leverage the power of teams. It will also explore how to use the designed-for-business Whole Brain® framework to:

  • Optimize a department’s strategic and day-to-day effectiveness
  • Set virtual and far-flung teams up for success
  • Make cross-functional really work
  • Give “voice” to the full cognitive diversity within the team
  • Strategically deploy teams to solve critical business problems

In the meantime, tell us: What are the biggest challenges you’re facing in getting the full benefits of the team’s collective intelligence? Are there any standout team experiences that come to mind? What made them work so effectively?

Share your thoughts in the comments, and be sure to check back next month to download the free white paper.

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In Preparing for the Olympics, Coca-Cola Exercises its Brainpower

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Seventy days, 8,000-plus miles, 1,000 towns, and one momentous flame.

Preparing for what was dubbed the “logistical minefield” of the 2012 Olympic Torch Relay wasn’t so much a physical test as a mental one for the organizers and sponsors of the London Games.

As a Worldwide Partner, Coca-Cola knew it would need to unleash its full brainpower to execute with flawless communication, stay agile in the face of enormous complexity, and generate world-class teamwork from a diverse group of people who, for the most part, had never worked together before.

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Podcast Explores Whole Brain® Thinking Applications to Project Management

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In a recent interview posted on the Guerrilla Project Management blog, Ann Herrmann-Nehdi shared insights on how the Whole Brain® system can be used to improve project management processes and outcomes.

The Guerilla Project Management blog explores topics related to the mindset Project Managers must adopt to be able to effectively manage today’s complex projects.

In a lively conversation with blogger and Certified Project Management Professional Samad Aidane, Ann explains that projects often fail not because of lack of effective project management processes, tools, and techniques but rather because of the quality of thinking that gets in the way of applying them on our projects.

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Size DOES matter – 5 Steps to Better Team Meetings

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Saturday morning, my spinning class was raucous, a cacophony of conversation. The instructor had a hard time breaking through with her standard and ever increasing challenges. The spinning room had recently expanded from a surprisingly small group of bikes 7 to 9 bikes and none of us thought it would make any real difference.

The din of Saturday’s session proved us wrong. When there is more than seven in a group, interaction becomes much more complex to manage. In the case of our spinning class, it really did not matter as long as our instructor could speak loud enough to break through the noise. In working with teams and workgroups on the other hand, it can make or break the productivity.

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