America, ähh TEAM First
Trump and Team? Sounds odd, right? It is. That’s why it’s just our tacky headline to lure you into reading.
But as we’re already on it. Let’s make a connection. Trump and his “America First” politics is ultimately based on exclusion. For example, in terms of economic exclusion, when putting high import taxes on all kinds of foreign products such as washing machines or dryers. Ok, that’s a dry example. A more juicy one are the latest news about Trump being a major golf cheater. Trump even went that far to declare himself a club champion, when he didn’t even play in the tournament. Yes, that’s right. That’s why sportswriter Reilly called his book “Commander in Cheat: How Golf Explains Donald Trump”. And while golf is not even a team sports, Trump is for sure not a team player, nor is he about inclusion. But that’s what this story will be all about. And no cheating, promised.
I guess we all have heard about the claimed slogan “Team First” that is so prevalent these days in the startup community. Not the idea is the most important, as the idea is anyways wrong in the first place and will, respectively must, be adopted along the way. But the team is the most important, as the team gets things done and modifies the idea according to the challenges the team will face when bringing its idea to the market. Not surprising then that once a leading startup coach, working for Techstars and SAP, told us that the “idea is worth nothing”, “anyone can have ideas”, but “the team is worth everything”. And that is why in accelerator programs one of the biggest evaluation criteria is the team constellation and its dynamics. And while in larger, more established organizations good ideas are still not omnipresent, and thus play a rather important role, team and organization structures are for sure at least as important. If not even more important. But what is a good team?
We believe that a good team is diverse. Diverse in terms of culture, gender and most importantly in expertise. We believe that interdisciplinarity is one of the key features of what defines a good team. Business, design, tech and people expertise is what it takes to make any new business initiative successful. When creating new business initiatives and bringing them to the market, business experts define viable business strategies, identify market opportunities and scale-up initiatives. They make sure the business is sustainable over time. Design experts create desirable solutions that solve “wicked” problems for users and other stakeholders. They create services and products that people need and want. Tech experts deliver feasible technical solutions, which are adaptable to changing conditions. They guarantee the functionality of systems behind services and products. And last but not least, people experts identify talent, build teams, solve conflicts and lead change. They activate team members and enable knowledge transfer.
Such a team constellation is able to break bubbles, which in larger organizations means silos. It enables to solve complex multilayered challenges that most organizations are facing in this turbulent new business environment that we are all navigating in (check out our TUNA story). And while experts certainly have their specific roles, connected to specific competencies, we firmly believe in the power of integrating all 4 lenses from the beginning on. Why? Because that’s how teams understand what they’re doing, as they can see the big picture and how all components are interlinked and influence each other. That doesn’t mean that all team members have to work always together. It simply means that all team members are involved in all stages of the process, sometimes more and sometimes less. And that crucial decisions in key milestones, affecting all team members are taken together. And we all know that an additional pair of eyes, sometimes an outsider eye, can bring enormous value to our work.
When working closely together with larger organizations, to support getting new business initiatives done, it is important to understand that “team” doesn’t only include your own people. The team also consists of your customers (your client) and your customer’s customers (the users). We believe that it is crucial for the success of new initiatives in larger organizations to integrate team members from the client, both C-Level and operational workers, and let them be an equal part of the team. Pursue a path of co-creation. Otherwise, it might be just another beautiful piece of strategy paper that will end up in the shelf of your client. And we go even further and say that users should be a part of the team as well. So don’t take this literally now (well, you could actually try). But don’t forget for who you are really working. And that’s ultimately the ones using what you’re creating. So start talking to your users. Start understanding them, beyond abstract data. Give them a face. After all, they are people like you and me.
But hey, didn’t you say “no cheating, promised”? Yes, I did. So let’s talk about some of the challenges that go with it when pursuing an interdisciplinary co-creative path. We all know how difficult it can be to throw a bunch of different people together in a room. Just think Christmas with all your family members. Challenging, right? So, one thing is that too much diversity can hinder from moving forward. Discussions can get out of hand. Real conflicts can emerge, when people are not on the same page. And that’s not a surprise. After all, designers are creative and love to come up with ideas, while techies are all about “can we really do that?”, just to give one example. Different disciplines have their own methodologies. And methodologies are most often rooted in underlying values. Some people believe in numbers, while some people believe in experiences. But one is not more true than the other. One can only be better or worse in certain situations. And it gets beautiful when both are being combined. That’s where you find the real sweet spot.
It takes a whole lot of courage. Because you have to step out of your comfort zone and will get confronted with new people, new methods and new values. Now you can decide to shut yourself in, like Trump, wanting to turn back the clock, wishing for a beautiful warm bed that was once so comfortable. Or you decide to open up and embrace inclusion over exclusion, even if it fu***** hurts. Because after all, we’re all family.