The New Science of Building Great Teams

June 19, 2012, by Lisa Avvocato in Collaboration

A few weeks ago we discussed the characteristics of high performance teams; ranging from member diversity to conflict resolution skills. But how do you ensure the success of a team? Unfortunately, achieving the level of cohesion required to have a high performance team seems to depend more on luck than anything else.

Well, maybe not. A new study from Alex “Sandy” Pentland suggests that building great teams is more of a science than an art. In his HBR webinar, The New Science of Building Great Teams, he discusses several points; including how different communication patterns enhance team creativity and productivity. If you have an hour to invest, this video is well worth the time.

The key take away is how we communicate is more important that what we communicate.

Pentland states that communication patterns; or the manner in which teams communicate, are actually the most important predictor of a team’s success. The best teams produce a “buzz” that is noticeable but indefinable. So what constitutes as a “buzz-worthy” communication pattern?

Participants have high energy, they continually converse with each other and there is little to no dead space between conversations. Side bar conversations coincide with, but do not detract from, the main group discussion. All participants are actively engaged in discussions; this is shown through both verbal and nonverbal cues, such as nodding along or interjecting short thoughts like really or tell me more. There is an equal contribution rate from all members of the team. Every team member communicates with every other team member; there is not one or two people who dominate conversation.

Finally, team members have a high social intelligence. Essentially, they think about what other people are thinking and are able to successfully navigate complex social situations and environments. This also means that team members have high exploration tendencies; meaning they frequently interact with others outside of their immediate team or work group.

What does this mean for remote work teams?

According to Pentland, “The most valuable form of communication is face-to-face. E-mail and texting are the least valuable.” Therefore, organizations that rely heavily on remote work teams should invest in some type of visual collaboration or unified communications platform. Video helps remote teams establish the trust factor required for high energy, high engagement conversations. Communicating over email or virtual discussion boards can get complicated and frustrating for participants; thereby limiting their creativity and productivity.

What’s even better is that cloud solutions make visual collaboration even more attainable. Gone are the days where organizations have to invest heavily in hardware or software. UC solutions allow organizations to simply purchase a license and users can be up and running in a matter of minutes.

Building a great team can be incredibly challenging. However, when the right team does come together it can accomplish things far greater than ever imagined.

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