Into 2017: five teamwork and collaboration takeaways from 2016

These are some of the key themes and ideas that have continued to emerge for me this year, around the topics of teamwork and collaboration:

1. Teamwork is changing

Collaboration is nothing new, but the way we’re thinking about teams is changing. Faster-moving industries and more complex challenges means the future of work will be organised around fluid teams. For the most forward-thinking companies, this is already impacting their entire organisational structure. Airbnb has elastic teams, Spotify emphasises autonomy, and Basecamp works in six-weekly cycles. Stripe even experimented with hiring whole teams earlier this year.

Takeaway: the nature of work is continuing to change as flexible, agile teams become increasingly common. This requires a new set of skills for leading, and working as part of, them effectively.

2. We’re thinking more about how we work together

Following on from the research last year into the characteristics that made up its most successful teams, Google has provided more insight and resources around psychological safety – the most important of the five factors – which describes when “team members feel safe to take risks and be vulnerable in front of each other”.

Takeaway: teams are having more conversations about the way that they work together, and are considering the conditions, beyond technical skills, that need to be fostered to enable success.

3. More teams are sharing their stories

As teams reflect more on their processes, they’re sharing their trials and errors for working better together. Medium has become a great platform for this, with teams using it to provide insights into the habits and routines they’re developing (some examples in this post). What’s clear is that there is no one-size-fits-all. Each team is unique, and needs to continuously tweak and test until they find what works.

Takeaway: great teamwork is designed, by being specific about the actions that we will take to change behaviour.

4. The Sprint has gone mainstream

The ‘sprint’ has been around for a while, but the team at Google Ventures popularised it with their book earlier this year. Now more companies and teams are trying their 5-day process for bringing ideas to life, and with great results. An added bonus is that people are able to see how facilitated, fast-paced collaboration and a design-thinking attitude can get more done in a week than they ever thought possible.

Takeaway: workshops can be more than a one-off event. When they’re run well and achieve real results, they also have the wider potential to impact a team’s culture.

5. Office spaces are evolving

As workers get more frustrated with increasing interruptions from meetings, digital tools and colleagues, they’re craving workspaces that allow for individual, focused time. Open plan offices were once seen as synonymous with a collaborative culture. But now companies are seeing the value in also providing pods, nooks and quiet corners for ‘deep work’. Office design is moving well beyond trying to reflect culture through gimmicky features, to spaces that support people in doing meaningful work and getting stuff done.

Takeaway: a good team workflow alternates between individual work and collaboration, and considers the environment needed for both.

What are your key takeaways from this year around teamwork and collaboration that you’ll take into 2017?

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