Great Teamwork

When people get together to solve a problem they often come up with some amazing ideas. However, achieving this isn't as easy as it may seem as working together as part of a team isn't always intuitive. But what if it wasn't the people that were the problem, but the way we went about doing teamwork?

Part of the Group

We have all been in the situation in school where we were put in teams to do a project. Teachers done this to teach us how to work together to achieve a common goal, which from my experience was hardly the case as people slacked off or were just poorly coordinated.

If you look at the modern work environment, you see similar results. In some scenarios you will see that some team members may think that they are smarter than the group, while in other situations people may be afraid to speak up and hold back on their ideas so they don't go against the group.

Two Heads Aren't Always Better Than One

I'm sure you have heard the saying that two heads are better than one. Well, that isn't always true. You need to have two heads that are different and bring their diverse ideas to the table, else you may as well just have one.

By having people from different cultures with different backgrounds will help in creating a melting pot of diverse and unique ideas. You need people who feed off each others differences in order to create superior work.

You can also add more diversity on a more personal level by reading other peoples work, having a mentor who pushes you, go out and experience different things. All of this can be used as forms of input into your thought process.

In the Trenches

I'm sure we have all seen some variation of the story where an experienced person in their field states that something is extremely difficult, or near impossible to do, and then to have a junior person go ahead and do it.

Junior people tend to solve the unsolvable

Why is this the case? It could be that the junior people simply don't know any better and are not held back by their beliefs. It could also be something known as Cognitive Entrenchment, which is basically the stifling of your ability to find creative solutions to problems as you know that the best solution has already been found.

For example, imagine you told a group of engineers to design an aircraft that was three times as fast and twice as efficient. Experts in the field will probably say that they won't be able to do it, as the current design is the best that can be done. But what if it wasn't? What if they came up with some radical new design, which took influence from their varied experiences and ideas in order to create such a machine.

Don't lose your creativity & dig yourself into a trench

FIGHT!

Having a team of people whom constantly agree with each other will never be great. You need diversity in the group as this will lead to varied ideas and superior solutions.

It's not how well you get along with the people in your team, but how well you fight

When I mean fight, I don't mean being physical or abusive in anyway. I'm talking about still having respect for each other, but at the same time willing to challenge thoughts and ideas.

As a leader it is important that you keep this in check and to make sure that the focus is on the idea and that it doesn't get personal. To do this, each member will need to keep an eye out for the following items:

  • Respecting other people's viewpoint
  • Not being over confident
  • Separating your ego from your intellect
  • The ability to revise your ideas

No one is perfect at doing all of those, so you need to identify what your weakness is and work to improve it.

A Better Brainstorming Technique

Typically, when you go to brainstorming sessions the facilitator will often try to do some physical activity to stimulate ideas around a whiteboard. However, this rarely tends to work and you typically land up choosing a suboptimal solution just because you have to.

I read the following technique to generate better ideas from a "brainstorming session", and while I haven't tried it out yet, I thought it seemed interesting and it goes as follows:

  1. Once you understand what is required, you start off by brainstorming by yourself. Ideally, you want an area with a little bit of noise like a coffee shop, but nothing to distracting.
  2. You then come up with some totally insane and absurd idea. I'm talking totally out there. This will then be used as the boundary on what is acceptable. By doing this, you aren't limiting yourself in any way.
  3. Once you have come up with some ideas, you then go through each them and look for ways in which you can poke holes or even kill them completely. Be ruthless at this!
  4. This will then help generate new ideas which solve those issues and are fundamentally better.
  5. After iterating this process a few times, you should have a few really good ideas left, but it doesn't stop there. You then need to go to friends and family and ask them to poke more holes in the ideas. You may even want to get people from completely different fields of work.
  6. Once everyone has their ideas, they all get back together and discuss them.

While this method may not seem as fun as other ones, I do think it will be more effective. It essentially boils down to continuously iterating, refining and adjusting on an idea. Given the opportunity, I would really like to try this out and see how it works in practice.

Until next time...keep learning!

Mauro Da Silva

Learning everyday about software development, leadership & self improvement

Perth, Australia