October 15,2019 Facilitating Innovation

Team Utilization

Team Utilization

Paul Hedrick

Texas-born Paul Hedrick had a bright future ahead of him in corporate America. Graduating from Harvard he found himself employed as an analyst with McKinsey & Company, then later helping manage a portfolio for L. Catterton. Instead of following a safe path of corporate employment, he jumped on an opportunity to become an entrepreneur when he found a gap in the market that led to full team utilization.

Hedrick realized that western boots were sold in brick and mortar stores, not online. He also recognized that there wasn’t a quality name brand that dominated the $3 Billion a year market. After studying Warby Parker direct to consumer sales model, he realized that he could replicate its success with cowboy boots.


Draining his personal savings, Hedrick founded Tecovas, a direct to consumer premium cowboy boot shopping experience.  Tecovas was a start-up and the mentality followed. Boots were designed, manufacturing was put in place, and sales began to trickle in. Employees were hired and talents were utilized. No one held a single role but performed multiple roles. This led to maximizing online marketing, significant sales growth, and over $28 Million in outside funding.

Wicked Problems

Society, governments, and businesses face numerous wicked problems. These are the problems that appear to be highly difficult to solve because there is no one answer. These are also problems that can be considered unsolvable. Examples include poverty and climate change.

Complex issues require the insight of numerous experts thus the creation of teams. These teams aim to leverage multiple specialties to find a solution. When a team is not fully utilized, they are leaving money on the table. They are wasting talent and reducing their odds of achieving a solution.

Team Utilization

There are numerous team dynamics explored in this work that can keep a team from achieving their full potential. To highlight one disabler is extroversion and introversion. Typically, extroverts think while they talk where introverts think and then talk. When in a group setting those that think while talking will drown out the ideas of those thinking before they talk. Neither action is intended to stunt the other, yet it makes a significant impact on the team.

Voice of One

When one person dominates a workshop, they steal from everyone else. They provide leadership with the false positive that there is active dialogue. However, conversation dominators eliminate the team’s quieter voices. This silencing then leads the team’s collective thinking in a biased direction. Biased to those that control the conversation instead of by the quality of the solution.

Team Voices

Big problems that require team solutions are systematic problems. These problems never have a smoking bullet or a root cause. They require multiple solutions that integrate with other solutions. By limiting the voices spoken during the ideation phase greatly narrows solutions. The best solutions come from combining multiple perspectives. A group must achieve full team usage to apply multiple perspectives.

Blind Spots

Problem-solving includes awareness of blind spots. Narrow-minded decision making increases the likeliness of poor perspective-taking in the solution process. Cognitive diversity not only addresses blind spots, but it brings new approaches to problem-solving. Different perspectives help to unlock empathy in the problem solvers. This empathy then uncovers systemic blind spots that have gone previously unaddressed.

Practical Application

  • Review who is on the team and what value they provide. Can you reduce the size of the team to increase the odds of full team utilization and engagement?
  • Use a facilitator during meetings and events to ensure that every voice is heard and that there are no members passively just along for the ride.
  • When posing questions to the team, ask them to silently write their ideas down first and then to share with the team. This will fully engage everyone in the process versus just hearing the points of view from those that think as they speak. This also nullifies the loudest voice in the room.

Black Jack

Born in 1860, John Pershing grew up a son of a farmer and businessman. He had established himself as a local teacher early in his adolescence. However, he opted to attend the United States Military Academy because it awarded him a higher quality education. Pershing was an average student that excelled in leadership. This helped boost his early career serving in the Spanish-American War and earning the Silver Star for gallantry while fighting on San Juan Hills in Cuba. Later in his career, he would command the Punitive Expedition of Pancho Villa in 1916.

World War One

The early phase of World War One experienced extreme battles of attrition. Hundreds of thousands of Germans, French, and British lives were lost. World War One was a coalition war that matched alliances together. However, this also led to significant infighting in coalitions on team utilization and how to best use troops.

Coalition Utilization

General Peshing led the American Expeditionary Forces into France as the United States joined the Allied war effort. Pershing immediately immersed in resource battles as French commanders argued to throw American forces into the trench warfare. Luckily, Pershing had the insight to know that simply replacing troops in the trenches would only prolong the war and not win it. He called for full utilization of forces by coordinating American led attacks which eventually led to the breaking of the stalemate and German surrender.


Canales, K. (2019, June 18). Also, We went inside Tecovas, the ‘Warby Parker of cowboy boots’, to see how its $300 boots are taking the multibillion-dollar boot industry by its horns. Retrieved from Business Insider:

Carroll, A. (2017). Because of My Fellow Soldiers: General John Pershing and the Americans Who Helped Win the Great War. New York: Penguin Press.

Kavilanz, P. (2019, February 13). Hence Cowboy boots are pricey and tricky to buy, This startup wants to change that. Retrieved from CNN:

Tecovas. (2019, October 15). Our Story. Retrieved from Tecovas:

Watson, M. (2018). Another Common Strategies and Practices Among Facilitators of Innovative Thinking in Organizations. Ann Arbor, MI: ProQuest.

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