team working

Multi-tasking in Meetings never a good idea

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flipboard_discussion_text_10528You might think you are good at multi-tasking (you’d be wrong by the way) and probably don’t think of the effect it has on your colleagues.

Researchers at Harvard found that checking your phone, e-mails or social media is more distracting for your colleagues than it is for you.

In fact they blame our obsession with our devices for the unproductive meetings taking place everywhere. I don’t necessarily agree with that having attended my fair share of useless meetings long before we had smart phones and tablets.

But there’s no doubt it’s worse now with the “always on” mentality many people have.

People were asked by Francesca Gino how they would respond if a friend or colleague checked their e-mails or posted on social media during a meeting.

She said “The results suggest that we feel distracted and annoyed when others are checking their phone rather than paying attention to what we have to say in a meeting. Yet we fail to realise that our actions will have the same effect on others when we are engaging in them

She also confirmed that multi-tasking is a myth because other than simple tasks we can’t perform several action at the same time. When we try it takes 50% longer with 50% more mistakes (our brain is switching from one task to another and takes time to recover its earlier position).

Banning phones from meetings might help but also organising the meeting better.

41Rq7xmxm0L._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_Patrick Lencioni, author of “Death by Meeting” estimates that professionals spend 31 hours each month attending unproductive meetings and almost three-quarters of attendees say they take other work with them. (Professor Gino thinks people take their phones and devices as a back-up plan in case the meeting gets boring or ineffective).

Lencioni says bad meetings not only exact a toll those who suffer in them but also cause anguish in the form of, anger, cynicism, lethargy and lower self-esteem.

The HBR suggests the following rules to get the best out of meetings:

  • Keep it small i.e. no more than 7 people to ensure everyone can pick up on NVC and other nuances
  • Ban devices as unacceptable distractions
  • Keep it short i.e. less than an hour (I remember meetings in the public sector lasting 6 hours)
  • Stand up. Meetings where you’re not allowed to sit down ply last 2/3 as long
  • Never just update. That can be done outside the meeting by e-mail, otherwise it’s a time-waster
  • Set an agenda and be clear about the purpose of the meeting and that there will be a plan of action

FYI Lencioni is also the author of “The 5 Dysfunctions of Teams” which is well worth a readThe5dysfunctionsofateam

 

 

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Influencing ethically

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two_figures_sharing_thoughts_1600_wht_9157Influencing is a key skill for leaders and everyone in management positions.

It is seen by some as manipulating people but I believe you can make a distinction.

I regard influencing as an ethical use of skills with a positive intent.

Manipulative behaviour is that described in my post “Leadership – the Dark Side” or as offered by some NLP practitioners training gullible people ie men, in sure-fire dating skills!

Robert Cialdini is one of the most respected experts in this field – and, as suggested by the title of his book; “Influence – The Psychology of Persuasion“, he does see it as a science with evidence to back up his theories.9780061241895

He believes there are 6 universal principles of social influence.

These are:

  1. Reciprocation – we feel obliged to return favours
  2. Authority – we look to experts to lead the way
  3. Commitment/consistency – people want to act in alignment with their values
  4. Scarcity – the less available something is the more we want it
  5. Liking – the more we like people the more we want to say yes to them
  6. Social proof – we prefer to behave in the same way as others

Cialdini and his co-authors set out techniques based on these principles in; “YES! 50 secrets from the science of persuasion“.

If you want to know why charities send you small gifts, how hotels can persuade guests to recycle towels, or how waiters can improve their tips, read this book. You can also watch a Youtube presentation here.

So you don’t have to be a mentalist or a master of the black arts of NLP to be a more effective influencer, just try these evidence-based techniques to make a difference in an ethical way.

Originally posted on Sganda

Teams and Groupthink

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group_of_business_people_1600_wht_8392When the Treasury Select Committee published its findings on the global financial breakdown in 2008/9 it brought back memories of the CIA-backed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961 which failed and probably strengthened Castro’s position.

Irving Janis‘s extensive work on the subject of Groupthink included his analysis of the reasons for that and other failures. And it still holds true today.

In recent times it has become a common belief that team working is the key to delivering results and that the more cohesive the group, the more effective it is.

It may be more fun to work in such a group but the evidence also suggests that members of groups may indulge in “social loafing“, there can be diffusion of responsibility in the absence of individual goals, and that sometimes individuals can outperform teams.

Janis proposed that close-knit teams are insufficiently critical of each other, don’t seek alternatives, believe in the group’s invincibility, want consensus, restrict negative information and generally, as the Select Committee said, adopt a herd mentality.

The Select Committee suggested that diversity was the answer – in this example by having more women at senior levels. This is old news now; on a similar note in Management Today at the time Emma de Vita bemoaned the testosterone fuelled culture in the city and made some interesting points about leadership styles.

She also and cited some research at London Business School that found that having a 50-50 gender balance produced more effective, stable and innovative teams. A finding that the Norwegian government put into practice in 2008 so that all public companies are required by law to have 40% of females on the board.

It had previously been suggested in The Times that women board members may be better at getting rid of bad bosses (but not as good at making money) as women tend not to meet at the golf course or the club and therefore may be less susceptible to groupthink.

Gender is not the only difference that organisations should explore however. Different socio-economic backgrounds, qualifications, and career experiences are probably more important. See post on Teams & Diversity

And the dangers of creating an inner cabal or kitchen cabinet probably cost the Conservatives electoral victory in 2010. The failure of the Tory’s “Big Idea” to energise voters and the last-minute slide in the polls infuriated many conservative MPs. They blamed David Cameron’s “Leadership by Inner Circle”.

He apparently relied on a close group of advisors rather than the shadow cabinet which he informed rather than consulted. Candidates were saying that the public wasn’t interested in the “Big Idea” but more mundane issues such as crime and immigration. Failure to listen to critics and a wider circle is symptomatic of Groupthink.

Originally posted on Sganda

It doesn’t pay to be too nice

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figure_holding_happy_sad_signs_1600_wht_10227Professor Adrian Furnham’s used to have a column in The Sunday Times which was always of interest to psychologically minded executives and his book; “The Elephant in the Boardroom – the causes of leadership derailment“, should be essential reading for all would-be directors.

As a psychologist I liked the piece in which he explained why nice guys don’t always win – because of their Agreeable personality.

Agreeableness is one of the Big 5 Personality Factors (along with Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, and Neuroticism).

He points out that Agreeableness can be a handicap in business as the higher you score on this factor, the less likely you are to succeed as a business leader!

Most of us would prefer to work for an agreeable rather than a disagreeable boss, wouldn’t we? Well perhaps not says Furnham. Agreeable bosses may make you dissatisfied by not dealing with poor performers and being too forgiving, maybe treating you all the same, or being manipulated by your more devious colleagues.

One of my earlier posts “Sometimes you just have to tell ’em” was about research at Roffey Park that showed that we are not very good at dealing with underperformance or telling people what we want, that strong managers get more respect, and that a firm consistent approach is better for morale and performance generally.

And a paper presented to the Academy of Management by Beth A Livingston from Cornell University analysed surveys spread over 20 years. She found that significantly less agreeable men earned 18.3% more than men who were significantly more agreeable. For women the difference was less, just 5.5%.

Livingston said; “Men’s disagreeable behaviour conforms to expectations of masculine behaviour“. As n earlier post of mid pointed out, rudeness and aggression can be mistaken for power, even though it can have a negative impact on the bottom line.

And it gets worse – if you’re a female. Research carried out by the Institute of Employment Research concluded that; “It doesn’t pay for a female boss to be too nice“. The research showed that personality factors do come into account and that, for example, nice people earn less.

Apparently nice women are being swept away by openly aggressive ones who know what they want.

Working hard obviously helps but if you are too conscientious you may be seen as neurotic (or get bullied), and extraverts do no better than introverts.

Professor Sir Cary Cooper, at the University of Lancaster Management School, agrees but also thinks women have more emotional intelligence than men and are not generally as egocentric.

So agreeable managers have to learn how to toughen up – for the sake of their team and the organisation, just as the disagreeable ones have to learn how to be nice – if only for the PR.

An article in Psychologies magazine picked up on this topic in their article; “Why it pays to be tough at work“. It suggests that the prevailing view that it’s not the cleverest (presumably meaning IQ) but those with the highest emotional intelligence that succeed is wrong.

That was always a simplistic view at best and one that Adrian Furnham disagrees with as he says there is evidence that disagreeable poeple do better. The German research quoted says agreeable women earned £40,000 less over a lifetime than women who behaved more like ruthless men.

The article’s author then has a go at empathy. She quotes Jack Welch’s wife Suzy as saying that; “too much empathy is paralysing” when you have to give tough feedback or make tough decisions, and goes on to talk about women being prone to slipping into “good mother” roles where they create “gardens of entitlement” sowing seeds of future problems (such as?).

After dismissing empathy – by quoting Neutron Jack’s wife for goodness sake – the author next attacks self-knowledge which she doesn’t consider essential for top jobs as it can detract from self-confidence if it makes you aware of your failings (is she serious that these people don’t need feedback ?

Some people have short memories; what about Enron, the banks or BP?

If men overestimate their abilities and don’t navel gaze while women underestimate themselves and have self-doubt (imposter syndrome) then women seemed doomed to fail according to the author and people like Suzy Welch.

In fact the author seems to welcome emotional stupidity as it makes less demands on her. She even had a dig at Anne Mulcahy, ex-CEO of Xerox, because, although she wrote about what women can bring to the workplace in terms of emotionality, which makes them better leaders, she still cut 1/3 of the workforce.

 

Originally posted on Sganda

Managing your Boss

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monster_boss_at_conference_table_1600_wht_14572If you read all the research about how people can no longer trust their bosses, you might wonder if there is anything that you can do to manage the situation.

Of course if you are devious and manipulative or have high level influencing skills, you probably already have but most people probably put up with the poor relationship and just complain behind their boss’s back.

Not a healthy way to spend a good part of your life.

Most business schools don’t teach anything about how to manage your boss, although it is a critical relationship,” says Sir Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology and health at Lancaster University Management School.

Maybe we don’t like talking about the fact that we do it, because people see ‘managing up’ as manipulating managers . . . but we should look at it instead as managing the relationship. Get it right and both your career and the company’s prospects should benefit.

One way to approach this is by working with psychological profiles eg as measured by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). Knowing your own type and that of your colleagues and boss can pay dividends.

Understanding the differences in communication style between people with Extravert and Introvert preferences, or Sensing and Intuitive preferences can make all the difference in a relationship. The MBTI is claimed to be the most widely used psychometric tool for personal development and team building and well worth trying out.

Although it has its critics I’m a firm believer in its use for raising self-awareness (one of the key elements in emotional intelligence) and personal development.

An alternative but similar approach is to compare temperaments rather than types and this is an article on how to manage your boss based on the Keirsey Temperament measure.

This is an updated version of a post on SGANDA.

Intact Teams perform better

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everyone_has_an_idea_500_wht_12709If any of you are familiar with the late Richard Hackman’s work on teams you will know that generally speaking the longer teams work together the better they get.

Harvard professor Robert Huckman and his colleague Bradley Staats from the University of North Carolina have also been researching teams across a range of organisations: military, corporate, healthcare and consultancy.

They found that too often managers liked to shake teams up to keep them fresh. Hackman found that the one exception where this can work is in R& D work where adding new members to a team, even by adding less experienced members, keeps things fresh as they ask questions no-one else does.

Basically there is a learning curve for teams just like individuals. they generally do better as they become more familiar with each other.

Research with Oxford University professor David Upton on over 1,000 projects involving over 11,000 staff in a Bangalore-based software services firm found that:

  • when familiarity increased by 50%
  • defects decreased by 19%
  • deviations from budget decreased by 30%
  • performance increased by 10% as judged by clients

The message is that managers should try and keep teams together and encourage familiarity between employees so that collaboration is easier.

Research from non-business areas shows that:

  • Leaders of Special Ops teams such as Navy Seals try to keep the teams intact as they believe it helps them cope with dynamic environments
  • In Pro basketball teams familiarity reduces bad passes but teams with too much familiarity committed more errors – perhaps because opponents could predict their moves.
  • In aviation 73% of commercial aviation accidents occur on a crew’s first day of flying together. NASA found that fatigued but familiar crews made only half as many errors as rested but unfamiliar crews.
  • The performance of surgeons who work at multiple hospitals varies from facility to facility – perhaps because of differing degrees of familiarity with the OR teams at different locations.

Main sources: HBR September 2013 & Richard Hackman

 

It’s good to talk – or is it?

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P1010013An analysis of over 20 years research into team effectiveness revealed that talkative teams are less effective (Journal of Applied Psychology Vol 94 No 2, 2009).

Teams which talk more aren’t necessarily sharing useful information and are not therefore getting better outcomes. And more introverted types will feel entitled to think “I told you so“, because what you talk about is more important for teams than how much you talk.

The researchers also found that teams communicate better when they are told to come up with a correct or best solution rather than a consensus.

This is yet another report which shows teams aren’t always as effective as people believe.

A report in the Quack Quack column – “We debunk the myths behind the headlines” – in The Times – cited research from the University of Arizona, reported in Psychological Science, which shows that the more people engage in superficial communication, the lower their morale.

This followed criticism of the report that you could measure the happiness levels of celebrities by analysing their tweets, some not very convincing research from the University of Edinburgh!

So like many things in life it’s the quality, not the quantity, that is important.

Originally posted on SGANDA

Men and Women are different at Work

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business_man_and_woman_1600_wht_5662Work affects men and women differently, no doubt about it.

  • Being happily married helps women resist work-place stress whilst men dissatisfied with their jobs are more likely to flirt.
  • If you’re a working mum stop worrying about it having negative effects on your kids but try not to work more than 30 hours a week.
  • If you’re a stay-at-home dad then you’re probably more satisfied with your life than dads who go out to work but, like many women, miss adult conversation.
  • If you are an independent women rejecting help may make people believe you are competent but cold, and vice versa. Not so for men.
  • In a mixed group women cooperate more than men but men are more cooperative than women when working in a single sex group.

 

But men and women do have one thing in common: taking work home – whether mentally or physically – can depress you and make you feel tired.

A study at UCLA, published in 2008 in Health Psychology, showed that happily married working women rebounded quicker from daily stress than women in less happy relationships.

Men showed lower stress levels as the day progressed – as measured by levels of cortisol in their saliva – whether happily married or not. So while marriage is often seen as good for men’s health it may come at a price for women in unhappy relationships.

But there is good news for working mums. Research at the University of Bath, published this year, shows that working mothers are significantly less likely to suffer from depression whether part-time or full-time and regardless of salary level: single mums 15% less likely and mums in a partnership 6% less likely.

The researchers said there seems to be little evidence to link stress at work to depression. Women going back to work showed a 26% drop in mental health problems compared to an increase of 25% for women giving up work. And the same results have been found in a 10-year study in America where working mums also report fewer symptoms of depression than mums who don’t work. Working part-time was the healthiest option of all.

We have known for decades that unemployment was bad for men and now the same applies to women. Work gives you a sense of identity and boosts your self-esteem which impacts on your well-being.

And there’s no evidence that babies suffer when their mums work. Past research found that returning to work early resulted in children who are slower learners and UNICEF recommended in 2008 that women stay at home for the first 12 months rather than put their children at risk.

But the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development’s Study of Early Child Care followed 1,000 children over 7 years tracking their families and their development. The research published by the Society for Research in Child Development in 2010 showed that overall the net impact was neutral: the advantages of more income and better child care offset any downsides of the mums returning to work. Again part-time working of up to 30 hours a week offered better outcomes than full-time working.

But women don’t have it all their own way at work. When it comes to “benevolent sexism” a study reported in the European Journal of Social Psychology (2012) showed that women couldn’t win. If they accept someone’s offer of help, for example opening a door for them or helping with a computer problem, they are seen as warmer but less competent; if they reject help they are seen as competent but cold.

And the same researchers found that accepting help meant that women were judged less suitable for managerial jobs while rejecting help led to their being judged less suitable for care jobs that relied on emotional skills.

For men the results were different. Rejecting offers of help led to them being judged as competent but not less warm. And it seems men are judged both competent and warmer when they offer help which is accepted.

It seem that independent women are seen as competent but cold mainly by people who believe in benevolent sexism and who adopt paternalistic attitudes.

A review by Balliet of 50 years of research discovered that men are actually more cooperative than women. And they are more likely to help strangers and be cooperative in large groups, whereas women are seen as more supportive and agreeable.

Perhaps surprisingly men are more cooperative in single sex groups than women but in mixed sex groups women are more cooperative.

It seems that when men and women are working together they resort to stereotypical behaviours because of the presence of the opposite sex. Perhaps men like to show women how dominant they are which reduces cooperation.

And sexist men earn more, at least in the USA. Research at Florida University (published in the Journal of Applied Psychology) showed that men with traditional attitudes earned substantially more than their egalitarian colleagues whereas for women it was the other way round – although not such a big salary difference.

Over a 25-year period the traditionally-minded men earned an average of $8,459 more annually than egalitarian-minded men and $11,374 on average more than traditionally-minded women. The gap between egalitarian men and women was much less at $1,330.

The differences occurred regardless of education, type of job, family commitments or hours worked and the researchers aren’t really sure why. They surmise it might be unconscious bias.

Talking of egalitarian men, it seems that “stay at home” dads do better in terms of life, marital, and job satisfaction, than dads who work outside the home, according to research reported at the American Psychological Association‘s 2007 Annual Convention.

Men were staying at home for a number of reasons including deferring to their wives’ higher earnings potential and wanted to be more involved in bringing up their children. Being a full-time dad did have some stigmas attached and they also reported missing the adult work-place interactions (something often mentioned by women when they decide to return to work).

Finally one thing that applies to everybody: taking work home, whether mentally or physically, can make you feel depressed and tired.

Researchers at the University of Konstanz found that the greater people’s workload and work hours the harder it was to detach themselves from work. Workers experiencing high work demands need more recovery time but are less likely to get it because of their work habits and not having time to switch off.

Those workers with hobbies or who engaged in physical activity reported feeling less tired and more engaged. But the researchers also point out that thinking about work can be a mood booster as well if people are reflecting on their successes and accomplishments.

But let’s give the final words to women. There is evidence that while women can contribute a lot to teams they don’t always perform at their best in them. They are also more critical of organisations.

And there are people who believe that women are the winners at work anyway!

Teams and Diversity – not so simple

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colored_puzzle_connection_1600_wht_9893Current thinking is that diversity is a good thing.

Diversity is claimed to increase creativity and the quality of work and there are several examples of where this has proved to be true.

However a review of research over 50 years (described by Elizabeth Mannix and Margaret A Neale at Cornell and Stanford universities respectively) shows it’s not all good news.

More worryingly researchers at MIT, Harvard, and other institutions found it was difficult to support a business case for diversity in terms of financial RoI.

Mannix and Neale define diversity as; “any personal attribute that someone else may use to detect individual differences“.

How and why a company diversifies is critical. Without proper management or worker training diversity can damage performance.

The ways managers recognise diversity e.g. by race, age, gender, or ethnicity, can have negative effects on collaboration and affect group performance, commitment, and satisfaction negatively, perhaps because they trigger preconceived biases and stereotypes.

Racial diversity, for example, was found to damage team processes. On the other hand less obvious, underlying differences such as functional background, education, or personality, tended to improve team performance as long as it was managed effectively.

Earlier research ( Jehn, Northcraft & Neale, 1999) differentiated between social category diversity such as age and sex; informational diversity such as education and functional role; and value diversity as measured by differences in goals and values.

With social category diversity heterogeneity positively influenced group member morale; differences in informational diversity increased task conflict i.e. differences of opinions, which enhanced group performance; and values diversity decreased individual satisfaction and commitment to the group.

Other research (by Pelled, Xin & Eisenhardt, 1999) found that whether or not diversity is job-related is important. Diversity in functional roles and background beneficially intensified task conflict which improved cognitive performance whereas racial diversity, which is highly visible but not related to the job, boosted affective conflict ie it increased interpersonal tension and emotional conflict and depressed group performance.

Age diversity lowered affective conflict but gender diversity didn’t seem to make any difference either way to group performance. The longer groups worked together the less the emotional conflict. This is in line with Hackman’s work on teams.

Another interesting finding is that university department’s with high proportions of women don’t necessarily welcome more of them. Increasing the proportion of women made it a more negative environment for them. This might be explained by the Queen Bee phenomenon.

Research, admittedly 30 years ago, suggested that men were happiest in a male or female dominated settings but not where there was gender balance which led to lower self-esteem and depression. It’s hard to believe that is still the case although the same research showed the women preferred either gender equity or male-dominated work-places. That may still be the case as most women say they prefer a male boss.

More recent research suggests that adding women to a team can make it collectively smarter (unless they are given feedback in a group setting) but adding women to boards doesn’t necessarily make the company more successful – it depends on their experience and competence, as evidenced by high performing NHS boards.

So what can managers do to harness the talents of a diverse workforce more effectively?

  1. As the research shows just having a group of superficially diverse people i.e. easily identifiable by race, gender, or age, doesn’t work, perhaps because these factors are not job relevant or because of stereotyping.
  2. Clearly picking the right people for the team regardless of their social categories is important. Then having functional or educational diversity and rites or rituals, common values and goals helps. As does the culture and any training (although diversity training doesn’t work).
  3. Information needs to be kept flowing and the influence of minority members enhanced (giving them a voice as the corporate anthropologists at a recent Global Leadership conference would say).
  4. Exploratory team tasks such as fact-finding and research are better served by heterogenous groups, whereas exploitation of knowledge to accomplish a task is best served by an homogenous group. Unless there is a matrix/project management type structure in place this is difficult for a manager to achieve with a fixed team.
  5. Another disappointing finding about teams is that when making decisions they focus on shared information rather than the information that hasn’t been shared. But the better connected the team members are the more likely they are to risk sharing their unique information.
  6. Values and goals diversity was mentioned earlier and there is evidence that having superordinate goals and shared values can overcome many of the differences in a diverse multi-national group especially when the shared values are collectivistic rather than personal.
  7. One key finding is that minority views need to be heard as these views can enhance creativity and problem-solving ability in the team. So the manager needs to create a tolerant environment with an emphasis on interdependency to reach cooperative goals that recognise the minority viewpoint. In practice many organisations weed out mavericks or people who managers might consider difficult and prefer to clone what they already have. HR people should know better!

Based on “Diversity at Work” by Elizabeth Mannix & Margaret E Neale in Scientific American Mind August/September 2012

Was Team GB ever really a team?

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badge_button_united_kingdom_flag_1600_wht_1991It may have been a marketer’s dream but were the 541 diverse athletes who comprised Team GB at the Olympics in any sense a real team?

Harvard Professor J Richard Hackman studied teams in a wide range of settings and was something of a guru when it comes to effective teams.

From his research he identified not causes but core conditions for effective teams;

1. The team must be a real team, not just a group of people doing the same thing (what he calls a co-acting group)

2. The team must have a compelling direction for its work

3. It must have an enabling structure that facilitates rather than impedes teamwork

In addition to the three core conditions there are two supporting conditions viz a supportive organisational context and sufficient support for the development of team members.

Some key questions to ask of team members are:

  • Are you dependent on each other?
  • Do you know who is in the team and who isn’t?
  • Do you know how much authority you have?
  • Do you have a stable team?
  • Are you energised by your team’s vision?
  • Does you team have a sense of direction?
  • Do you feel engaged by your team?
  • Do you see your work as meaningful?
  • Do you feel personally responsible for work outcomes?
  • Do you receive trustworthy knowledge of the results of your efforts ie feedback?
  • Does your team operate within a supportive organisational context?
  • Does it have available ample & expert support and coaching in teamwork?

Clearly you can answer YES to several of these questions.

However whether or not these elite athletes have the same vision as the British Olympic body is questionable.

Usually elite athletes such as these focus on their own performances (Bradley Wiggins was an honourable exception) but that means that they should feel responsible for their outcomes.

It’s doubtful if they are that dependent on each other; and would they know every one of the 550 athletes in Team GB?

They are certainly being provided with coaching and other technical support and regularly receive feedback.

So a lot of boxes are being ticked but you can’t make exact comparisons with business teams (about which there are lots of mistaken beliefs).

It’s also a big team, bigger than the majority of companies in the UK, and more like a regiment or a community. However even looking at it as a community it far exceeds Dunbar’s number of 150 ie “the number of individuals with whom a stable inter-personal relationship can be maintained“.

The team is also spread across different venues so is like a virtual team in that respect.

So Team GB is probably less like a real team and more like a co-acting group.

Postscript

It was later announced that not all the athletes in Team GB would be attending the opening ceremony. BOA chief executive Andy Hunt said that around half of the 541 athletes attending the ceremony would be a “reasonable” outcome.

None of the tennis, swimming or athletics squads would be there, while members of the eventing, sailing and road race cycling teams werealso set to miss out. Others, such as triathlete Alistair Brownlee, were training in other parts of the country and overseas.

They’ve been told to put performance first which means getting a good night’s sleep. So whose idea was it to have the opening ceremony start at 2100? Did sponsorship or TV rights have anything to do with it?

In terms of the team spirit I would have thought that if the athletes felt part of Team GB they would want to be there together.

Which brings me back to my question: Was Team GB rely a team?

Brainstorming revisited

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head_gear_500_wht_2011Brainstorming is still a popular method of encouraging creativity in groups (despite PC attempts to re-name it).

Joerg Melhorn in Scientific American Mind suggests some additional ideas to get your creative juices flowing.

Most of you know that in the early stages of brainstorming criticism is discouraged and ideally here should be two stages; the first when ideas are generated and the second when they are critiqued and evaluated by a different group of people.

Melhorn suggests that you could hide the problem from the group and ask them to think about a broader topic e.g. attractiveness, before narrowing it down to the real issue e.g. packaging.

Brainwriting is another way of generating ideas. A group of 6 people are given a sheet of paper with empty boxes, say 3 columns of 6 where the columns represent different aspects of the problem.

Each person thinks about the problem then writes one idea in each of the top three boxes before passing it on to a colleague. The colleague then elaborates or expands on the ideas in each box and then passes it along again. Potentially there could be 108 different ideas using this method.

Brainwalking is similar but this time there are flip charts for each aspect of the problem and small groups work on these separately writing down all their ideas about that aspect before moving on to the next flip chart and adding to the ideas there.

The ideas produced tend to be much richer than traditional brainstorming.

You might recognise some of these are borrowing from OD methods such as World Cafe or Appreciative Inquiry, and there are other methods such as De Bono’s six thinking hats.

Source: Scientific American Mind Vol 17 No 4

Drinking encourages competitiveness

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DSCF1495Some of you may still remember when it was OK to go for a few lunchtime drinks (and probably doze off in the afternoon).

Times and attitudes have changed although after-work drinks with colleagues after a busy or stressful day are not uncommon.

And it can have benefits as alcohol, in moderation, can help colleagues relax and encourage open exchanges of ideas.

However experiments with groups and individuals suggest that alcohol consumption makes groups, but not individuals, more competitive.

Using the prisoner’s dilemma game (where being cooperative pays off for both parties) and dividing participants into an alcohol drinking group, a placebo group and drinking & non-drinking individuals psychologists at the University of Kent found that, after the experimenters started off the experiment in a cooperative mode:

  • Individuals showed the same level of cooperation whether they had been drinking or not
  • Non-drinking groups were as cooperative as individuals
  • Groups that had been drinking were significantly more competitive than the others
  • Drinking can also make people take more risks, become more affectionate or effect expressions of prejudice.

All good reasons to prohibit drinking during working hours I would have thought!