The dynamics of fluid teams

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.

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5 skills for the future of 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.

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Making time for teamwork when there’s too much to do

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.

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Great workshops, great teams, great culture

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.

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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.

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Three ideas for the future of work

This is a summary of a talk I gave at Social Fabric’s regular event series on my vision for the future of work:

  1. The workplace will look more like a network of freelancers

For the creative industries, the “future of work” has been here for a while. Books like “The Independents” (Leadbeater & Oakley, 1999), “The Creative Eonomy” (Howkins, first published in 2001) and “The Rise of the Creative Class” (Florida, 2002) described how the creative industries were characterised by independent workers, portfolio careers, temporary teams and project-based working. Fluid, flexible working structures brought together the right expertise at the right time to drive innovation.

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Why running better workshops will make you a better creative leader

Improving your workshop facilitation skills might have more of an impact on your work than you think.

study of top management teams across 500 organisations showed that CEOs had a specific role to play in encouraging creativity in their teams. The researchers, Abraham Carmeli and Paul B. Paulus called this ideational facilitation leadership which they described as:

“leadership behaviour that cultivates openness, exchange of ideas and effective discussion for creating thinking and work in top management teams”.

Research has identified that to enhance creativity, teams need to: share knowledge, be aware of each team member’s expertise, and communicate effectively. Carmeli and Paulus conclude that the leader is crucial in creating the right environment for this and ensuring these interactions happen, particularly in meetings.

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How to set the mood for collaboration

Image credit: O Palsson on Flickr

Did you know that the words you use can have an impact on how your team works together? Leigh Thomson, author of Creative Conspiracy: the new rules of breakthrough collaboration, found that asking people to read statements that include specific words can either encourage them to focus on themselves, or on others:

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