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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Can you design your way to great collaboration?

What if companies started applying the same design principles they use to develop great products and services, to design collaboration in their teams? I’ve been thinking about this for a while now and this post is a collection of early thoughts and some good articles I’ve come across recently.

With the growing awareness of design thinking, it’s clear that design is not just something that is stuck on the end of a project to make things look nice. Companies are now using it at a more strategic level, and it’s permeating through all departments. Companies like Apple, Airbnb and Pinterest are all championed for their design attitude.

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What I’m learning about collaboration from social psychology

Late last year, I took Social Psychology on Coursera which is a course run by Scott Plous of Wesleyan University. I took the course more for personal interests, but it also had the benefit of helping me to understand more about collaboration. Social psychology is defined as “the scientific study of how people think about, influence and relate to one another”, and during the course I learned that we have various tendencies that can impact our efforts to create and innovate together.

I realised that there are even more reasons to consider the conditions that support great collaboration in the workplace, rather than just putting people in teams and hoping for the best.  There are theories which explain behaviour from individual to group level – here are some that I picked up from the course and a few other sources:

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Three books about working with other people

I recently read three books, all loosely on the topic of working with other people:

  • Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t – Simon Sinek
  • Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us – Dan Pink
  • Creative Conspiracy: The New Rules of Breakthrough Collaboration – Leigh Thomson

Although they each focus on a slightly different area – leadership, motivating others, creativity – there are many corresponding ideas in them which help us to understand what we need to do to get the best out of ourselves and work better with those around us.

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Are you really listening?

If you were to listen back to a recording of a conversation that you had with a colleague, would you be completely sure about what you heard, and what you had said?

This came up as a topic in the twelth episode of StartUp, a podcast that I’ve been hooked on over the last couple of weeks. StartUp, which first aired in August 2014, documents the story of Alex Blumberg, as he launches his new podcast company (yes, a podcast about launching a podcast company). He’s running a business for the first time and we get a unique, behind-the-scenes insight into his journey of raising investment, naming his company, getting a partner, hiring staff and also the impact it has on his family life. It’s candid, insightful and well worth a listen right from Episode 1.

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