In my recent post “Making time for teamwork when there’s too much to do” I explored how to keep up with changes to the world of work. This is becoming more relevant since many more of us are not only working in teams, but are part of multiple teams. As we identify new problems to solve, our teams become more fluid, shifting and shaping to make sure the right people are working on the right challenge at the right time.
How does working in fluid teams affect our performance? Unless a team is doing the same task over and over again with the same people, then team dynamics will change. If a team is caught unaware of how this can impact them, they may find that they hit a roadblock, derailing their productivity and flow.
Continue reading The dynamics of fluid teams
Innovation is not just for products and services. The best teams also find innovative ways of working together to support them in producing game-changing work.
There are many great examples of collaboration techniques and rituals that successful companies have used to support an innovative culture – Pixar’s Braintrusts, Etsy’s Blameless Post-Mortems, Amazon’s Two Pizza Rule, Google’s secrets for effective brainstorming to name just a few. It’s tempting to want to copy these ideas, but these final versions may only be part of the story. These ways of working may have come about through a process of trying and tweaking that is specific to the company, their people and their environment. You can certainly try them, but it’s likely that they’ll need to be adapted for your context.
Continue reading Want to build more innovative products and services? Innovate the way that you work
This is a summary of the talk I gave at Creative Summit 2017 in June.
Flexibility, self-management, project-based working, networks and collaboration. These were some of the characteristics of The Creative Economy, which was also made up of many independent, self-employed workers.
Today, these ways of working are not just for freelancers. They’re emerging in any company that has a need for creativity and innovation. These changes are also being driven by technology, as well as the desire for a more flexible working life from employees. Organisations are becoming more networked and dynamic, as people form temporary teams to get work done.
So the skills we’ll need to thrive in the future of work partly comes down to our ability to work well in these teams, ensuring that we create the conditions for people to do their best work together.
Continue reading 5 skills for the future of work
In 1924, the organisational psychologist Professor Elton Mayo, started a range of research studies at the Hawthorne Works factory to explore the impact that the working environment had on employees productivity (it’s where the term “The Hawthorne effect” comes from, which describes the tendency for people to alter their performance when they know they are being observed).
As part of the studies, which lasted until 1932, Mayo pulled together teams of workers who were observed over a period of time. The teams had various factors changed – such as the number, and duration of breaks – to see how this affected their output. But a huge discovery from the research was the positive effects the team reported as a result of working together. Whereas previous studies had focused only on the individual worker, Mayo’s research was the first to identify the relevance of teamwork in the workplace. And it changed management thinking.
Continue reading Making time for teamwork when there’s too much to do
Moving from workshops to “workshop culture”
Something I’ve been thinking about recently, based on what I’ve seen with clients, is how workshops can play a part in transforming the way a team works together. I think of it as three levels:
Level 1: workshops as an event
A group of people meets on a one-off basis to have a focused discussion. It might be a rare opportunity for people to come together, so it needs to be productive. An external facilitator is brought in to run the session, ensure collaboration and creative thinking, but also that there are concrete outcomes. With great facilitation, the group can make a lot of progress in a short space of time.
Continue reading Great workshops, great teams, great culture
As the first head of innovation at Emerald Publishing, Bec Evans had the opportunity to shape the role to suit her and the business. What she thought would be a very product-focused role, turned out to be something completely different – about changing the culture. And workshops played a big part in discovering that.
Emerald Publishing is a global academic publisher that specialises in business and management. Although it had a very traditional business model, it became interested in bringing new techniques such as lean and agile and encouraging an intrapreneurial mindset within the company.
Emerald offered Bec Evans, who had her own startup on the side, the new head of innovation role, which she had the opportunity to shape herself. Coming from a part-time position in the product development and innovation department, Bec started off by making a call for ideas from across the company. However, she soon realised that this was the wrong approach:
Continue reading How workshops helped to accelerate a culture of innovation at Emerald Publishing
The insights and breakthroughs that participants experience in a great workshop can have a big influence on the way they think about teamwork. An effective workshop demonstrates what can be achieved with focused and purposeful collaboration in a short space of time.
As Jake Knapp from Google Ventures said in “Sprint”, the book that outlines their 5-day workshop for building and testing new ideas:
“After your first sprint, you might notice a shift in the way your team works… you’ll build confidence in one another’s expertise and in your collective ability to make progress towards ambitious goals”
There are few principles you can adopt to make sure that workshops have an positive impact on your team culture:
Continue reading How to improve your team culture with workshops
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.
Continue reading Into 2017: five teamwork and collaboration takeaways from 2016