It is easy to think of creativity as an individual sport. As mentioned earlier, there are similarities between individual and group creativity, but that group creativity brings in new variables called team dynamics. One of these variables is adding more domain knowledge and enhancing the ability to scaffold ideas. However, it also adds in the detrimental aspects that social status plays on group creativity. Canadian philosopher and polymath, Shane Parish, pessimistically evaluates group creativity quoting,
“Average teams solve C+ problems as a unit. Good teams can solve B+ problems. To solve A+ problems, however, you need individuals and not consensus. All organization face all of these types of problems. The good ones approach them differently.”
While there are significant barriers to overcome with group creativity, it is not only a mainstay of corporate life, it is also the potential path to achieving innovation that is beyond the capabilities of a single individual. The main goal to achieve this is by facilitating each team member into speaking all their thoughts and ideas out loud instead of leaving them in their minds.
Group creativity is a collection of two or more individuals. Assembling groups at random or specifically matching individual specialties are the only two methods to form a team. Numerous project teams are put together with a unique mission and fall short when it comes to being given resources to complete the project. Many times, these teams are assembled based not on skill set but by availability. The opposite situation is less frequented when a team is put together, and the selection is designed around each person’s specialty and their personalities. In both cases, there is still a need for dedicated effort to occur to build a level of trust within the members.
The long-term time commitment of the group must be evaluated when assembling a team. Will the team assembled be just for a specific purpose and then disband or will the group be a long-term team that will collaborate over many projects? The intrinsic thought is to keep a team together over the long-term as the significant effort has been put in place to build the team and to have them mesh well together. Yet, long term teams achieve a level of understanding and norms that quickly turn into idea stagnation. It is a costly venture to bring a team together to build and mesh individuals for a one-time project. There is also a greater risk in the team dynamic turning into a catastrophic failure. However, it also has the greatest upside by introducing new perspectives that can cause micro frictions with the team that causes truly novel ideas.
Team dynamics play a pivotal role in enabling and disabling a group’s innovative ability. The key factor being the actual group itself and how much trust can be built within the core unit. While the overarching research points to a group being handicapped in terms of being creative, the team can also be a multiplier in creative ability and it has the potential to create something amazing that no single human could conceive alone.
If a problem isn’t complex, there is no need for a team. To build a team around a noncomplex problem is to place a priority on inclusion at the expense of quality. Teams should be used on complex problems where multiple subject matter experts are needed to solve a unique problem. These experts provide specialized knowledge and the team chemistry benefits because each person plays a vital role instead of just being along for the ride. Technical expertise plays one factor in team development, the second is political expertise. These are the situations where team members play a role in giving the voice of their representation to the project and assist in guiding the team to gain organizational support.
While in a team, subconsciously individuals will jockey for status amongst their peers. Evolutionarily hardwired into the human brain is social status. This impacts the teams ability to create the most. Each team member will have something to prove in the insights they provide, or they will be guarding the status that they have achieved by limiting the insights that they verbalize. Achieving trust and team vulnerability is essential to being able to bring out the best of everyone. The overarching goal is to shape the culture around respect which will enable the team to trust one another and achieve vulnerability. Only at this point will the team dynamic allow for a free flow of sharing of ideas which is the main goal.
Bosch is a technical and services supplier with over 400,000 employees in 60 countries. Throughout their history, they relied upon a traditional command and control management systems that eventually came to the point where their company had become a slow bureaucracy. The team adopted an agile approach mindset of empowerment and quick iterative sprints of productivity. Their key to being able to enable a rapid team was the insight of the leadership team acknowledging that they had to build capable teams that they could then cede control to these self-guided groups to drive speed of change.
Team dynamics pairs with the environment in its overarching drive to achieve inclusion. The environment helps gel a team together. This factor can be a colocation of the team having a shared working location like a team room or shared office. This can also mean the technology used for a virtual team and how the team uses tools to connect to one another and share a free flow of thoughts and ideas.
Forever linked to the project or team kickoff event are process and team dynamics. The process begins with introductions and the building of relationships. It is a common fallacy to jump directly into the task at hand and ignore the forming stage of team development. This development is part of the group creativity process where it takes time and dedicated effort to establish team norms and develop trust amongst one another. Unfortunately, time is a finite resource that is consistently being monitored to ensure that it’s not being wasted.
Leadership can play several roles with team dynamics on enabling or disabling the effectiveness of the group. Some organizations insist on maintaining a formal leadership presence within a team. These are positive events when the leader performs the role of a facilitator instead of a director. Other organizations have established comfort with self-guided teams and letting the team dictate how they want to lead themselves. The self-guided teams achieve a high level of performance as long as they have a sponsor. The sponsorship must have an ability to deal with the ambiguity of what the potential negative outcomes that could occur.
The Starr Conspiracy Ad Agency is a small Fort Worth, Texas-based digital ad company. They employ humanistic and emotional based advertising for business to business organizations. Their goal is to foster close collaboration for their creative teams by using glassed walled conference rooms to work. They then initiated their drive for self-directed teams by shifting to face to face meetings to recapture the human element. The company is small, and each member plays a role in numerous projects making it a highly cross-functional organization. Their latest improvement was to implement daily status meetings. This eliminated constant daily interruptions in trying to find status on items. This also gave the team time to focus on their deeper and creative work.
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