7 ways to make your team more creative and productive

Here’s a collection of favourite articles that I discovered, as well as some of my own, on team creativity and productivity. It’s pretty jam-packed with links, so it’s one to use as a reference to come back to now and again when you’re looking for new ways to make your team more effective.

I’m always learning, exploring and developing the best ways to build, motivate and lead creative teams. As collaboration increasingly becomes recognised as a key route to innovation, there’s no doubt that there will be a ton more research and best practice developed over the coming year.

For now, here are 7 ways to help your team develop and deliver great ideas.

  1. Run better meetings

The fact that there are 70,000 books on Amazon on running better meetings shows that we’re desperate to make them less of a time-suck. Companies such as Apple and Google have given us some insight into their techniques to ensure meetings have the right balance of creativity and decision-making. To make your meetings better you can: think about alternative formats like getting people moving; ensure that you’re always capturing information, and know how to close them.

  1. Brainstorming is dead! Long live brainstorming

There’s been a lot of criticism for brainstorming – the default way for teams to generate ideas. How do you get everyone to contribute equally? Are the ideas of high enough quality? What happens with the ideas afterwards? But brainstorming is not the issue; it’s the techniques that people use. Research studies show that effectiveness can be increased dramatically, for example by asking people to generate ideas by themselves first and giving people a limited time – say 10 minutes – to generate ideas in groups. We’ve also seen some evolution of brainstorming into newer techniques of Brainwriting and Brainswarming.

  1. Know what makes creative teams tick

Teams that generate and deliver creative ideas have certain characteristics, which need a particular type of management.  Teresa Amabile is amongst the top academics researching the conditions for effective creative management and she recently updated her body of work with evidence to show that creating the conditions for small, but frequent wins and facilitating progress is a key factor in motivating creative teams.

  1. Take time to nurture collaboration skills

Alongside their individual skills, everyone in your team needs a willingness to work with others and to support the team dynamic. There are a range of key skills that can make collaboration more effective, but there’s also a recognition of the personality types that are able to work  within and across disciplines – for example, the Expert Generalist, and the Amplified Individual.

Some skills that you can encourage your team to develop include listening, asking the right questions, and staying open to and responding to serendipitous encounters.

  1. Build your team with knowledge of what will make it great

If you are building a new team around a specific project (and by the way, temporary teams are the way to go!) there are steps you can take to make it more effective – think about the individuals based on their skills, how people will work together and then the overall personality of the team. There are also a range of research-based principles that also contribute to success, including clear goals, well-defined roles, and gender diversity.

Once your team is in place, you can also increase the group IQ (which is different to the average of everyone’s individual IQ) to help them work more effectively together. As trust is a key factor in good collaboration, you might want to fast-track it with an exercise to “enable strangers to quickly bond and form close relationships”.

  1. Embrace conflict

Although it’s something we often try to avoid, healthy conflict is good, even essential, for developing new ideas in teams. This is described well by Margaret Heffernan in her Dare to Disagree TED talk. You’ll need different viewpoints within your team, but part of the challenge is ensuring that criticism remains a positive part of the ideas generation process. Another part of the challenge is managing the dynamic between introverts and extroverts and making sure you bring out the best of both of them.

  1. Search for the balance between creativity and productivity

Great ideas without action are unfulfilled innovation, so it’s your role to guide your team into making things happen. There’s a fine balance between creativity and productivity – giving your team enough time to develop and nurture ideas, but knowing when it’s time to move into ‘doing’. It can be a little bit like having a split creative personality. Caterina Fake, founder of Flickr and Findery, sums up the tension brilliantly in her talk at the Inc Summit.  Luckily, there are methods and techniques you can explore to help with this, and I’m happily obsessed with finding the sweet spot!

If you want to ensure your team gets off to a good start this year, drop me a line to find out more about our project development sessions.

Image credit: wocrig on Flickr

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