Feedback Digest: Creativity and Great TeamsBy Jesse Goldman on November 22, 2010 in Thought Leadership
What makes a great team? Is it the people, the environment in which they work, or they way they work together? This week’s articles explore ways to bring out the best in individuals and teams.
Harvard Business School professor, Teresa Amabile, warns that: “creativity is under threat.” Amabile argues that, while productivity may be up, “stretching fewer employees to cover ever more work in our job-starved recovery is no way to run the future. Without the creativity that produces new and valuable ideas, innovation — the successful implementation of new ideas — withers and dies.”
So how do we keep people and teams creative? Amabile draws on the example of Xerox PARC in its heyday of innovation in the 1970s, to outline three keys to creativity at work:
1. Smart people who think differently.
“Rather than getting trapped by what was already inside their heads, they voraciously consumed new information and combined it in ways no one had previously imagined. They didn’t develop those habits of mind by following mandated curricula.”
2. Passionate engagement.
“Aside from small startups, too few organizations today give people a chance to do what they love in service of a meaningful mission…Indulging their passion was so exciting, and so much fun, that they worked their tails off. These days, people are more likely to find work frustrating than fun.”
3. A creative atmosphere.
“Under the severe pressures of the financial crisis, contemporary organizational atmospheres resemble assembly lines more than hotbeds of creativity. Too often, the imperative is to do the same thing repeatedly, ever faster and more efficiently; reflection, exploration, and intense collaboration become superfluous luxuries….Even the smartest, most passionate people won’t thrive in — or will soon abandon — a work environment that stifles them.”
Margaret Heffernan, BNET’s Serial CEO, discusses results of two recent studies, reported in SCIENCE, that found the real measure of team smarts is to focus on developing a collective IQ as opposed to focusing on individual IQs. Most of us have probably heard that there’s no “I” in team, but it’s great to see quantitative proof. The researchers found that: “The collective intelligence of the group (which they called “c”) far out-performed the average intelligence of individual participants.” According to the study:
“Collective intelligence is not strongly correlated with the average or the maximum individual intelligence of group members. Packing your teams with one, or a few, super smart people may not help you. Furthermore, group cohesion, motivation and satisfaction also did not determine group performance.”
Here’s what made the difference:
1. Social sensitivity of group members. That’s empathy for your teammates – understanding their moods, for example.
2. Equality in distribution of conversational turn-taking. Sharing the floor in conversations and not having just a few people dominate the discussion.
3. The proportion of women in the group. The researchers believe this connection makes sense as women “tended to do better on sensitivity tests and be good at taking turns.”
Perhaps this is the secret to helping more people be passionate about their work.
Photo of the ROM by bomb_tea. Licensed under CC.