Since my last post I encountered some pretty tough realisations about blogging and academic study. I signed off #mindset with a suggestion that I would spend time looking at the relationship between individual and collective mindsets and how they contribute to the effectiveness of transformation programs and this would form the basis of my next post.

In reality the sheer volume of potential source material, combined with the requirements of a demanding job; and looking after a one year old has left me a bit stranded. I was thinking about a good metaphor for the overload of available stimulus; and it dawned on me that for the child in the proverbial sweet shop the experience is actually probably quite stressful, daunted as you are about making the right choices and how to spend your 50p wisely; especially if you know that your time in the shop is severely time constricted, due to other commitments.

After an inspirational first week as a Hyper Island student this realisation brought me back down to Earth with a substantial bump; and I was genuinely nervous about the content of this post. Thankfully I spent my Sunday afternoon, writing up my notes from the excellent Creative Confidence By David & Tom Kelly; which provided me with a couple of reference points that I thought were helpful.

The first was two quotes attributed to American Essayist, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Hungarian Novelist, György Konrád respectively:

Do the thing you fear, and the death of fear is certain
Courage is only the accumulation of small steps

The second came later in the book where they describe the importance of tackling a doable part of a task and narrowing the goal, rather than fixating on a problem too large to comprehend and tackle.

I began to think about these quotes and the subsequent guidance. By doing so I came to two conclusions. The first was that I had to embrace this fear and step out from its shadow through a series of small steps. The second was that rather than trying to seek insights from reading that I had only partially completed, I would focus on a real life example of where I had applied my learning to date; and that those small professional steps were in fact a great starting point for figuring out and describing to a wider audience whether the theory being taught and learned was applicable within my real life context of Audio Network.

Total Football — Arguably a rare example of a team reaching the Work and Productivity stage of Wheelan’s model

In Susan Wheelan’s book Creating Effective Teams, summarised here by fellow Hyper Island Alumini Alexey Ivanov, she describes four stages of team development:

  1. Dependency and inclusion
  2. Counter-dependency and fight
  3. Trust and structure
  4. Work and productivity

Based on the research of more than 700 teams, Wheelan goes on to suggest that there are ten key areas that team members should be conscious of, which contribute to effective team work:

  1. Goal Setting
  2. Role Distribution
  3. Interdependence
  4. Leadership
  5. Communication and Feedback
  6. Discussion, Decision Making and Planning
  7. Implementation and Evaluation
  8. Norms and Individual Differences
  9. Team Structure
  10. Cooperation and Conflict Management

Taking on board the experience of the Hyper Island induction week and several articles I have read about Google’s Project Aristotle I have been really interested in the theme of Psychological Safety as a driver of successful teamwork. I concluded that the entry point to some in-work experimentation would be point #5 of Wheelan’s list: Communication & Feedback.

Below is a case study applied within my EMEA Sales Team, which draw on methods learned at Hyper Island.

Social Experiment #1

What problem are we trying to solve: We have a small proto-team, consisting of three people, developing and trialing a new sales process within the EMEA region. The leader of this team is time constrained, as is also working in a cross-functional group, responsible for rolling out global sales process and technology changes.

We are relying on the two other team members to be self supporting and to articulate key issues in their business-as-usual activities effectively to each other, their line manager; and myself.

The intervention is intended to give them more confidence sharing feedback with each other; and with the wider group, so as to support an open and collaborative culture, as we build up this part of the business.

What did we do: I decided to use a slightly hacked version of Current Strongest Impression as part of a weekly sand-boxed 30 mins of reflection between the two team members. This was also influenced by an article by Alex “Sandy” Pentland, of MIT, published in Harvard Business Review, April 2012, entitled: The New Science of Building Great Teams, in which the author extols the virtues of fostering face-to-face connectedness among teams, to drive productivity:

  1. We have deliberately kept the agenda loose, but the working plan is that they will spend 30 mins together every Thursday over coffee.
  2. They each will keep notes of their discussion, to refer back to.
  3. At the end of the session they will each give the other a post-it note with the message: Dear xxx… my strongest current impression of you is… love xxx
  4. We will keep this going for 3 months and at Christmas, they, myself and their line manager are going to go for lunch to reflect on the experience.

How will we assess the impact: Like all things in our complex modern world it is hard sometimes to understand how a multitude of internal and external influences will impact on any given scenario, particularly when it involves people and their feelings.

Ultimately much of the judgement will be based on Qualitative feedback from the team and my observations on their overall behaviour. I did however want to support this with some empirical data — not least in case I decide to use these early interventions for subsequent course work.

Using the Characteristics of Design Thinking explored in my previous post, #mindset I devised a series of statements to allow the team to assess how they felt they scored collectively across the attributes suggested for people displaying Design Thinking as a way of work; and or, a way of life. These statements are:

  1. We collaborate effectively
  2. We have time to think about problems with a fresh perspective
  3. We always think from the perspective of each other, clients & other stakeholders
  4. We iterate quickly and learn from our mistakes
  5. We find it easy to form a consistent mental image of a problem we’re trying to solve
  6. We will be happy and successful over the next year
  7. We actively seek to be inspired from many places
  8. We understand the big picture and how things are interconnected

The team have completed the feedback and I will ask them to re-assess prior to our Christmas lunch. My plan is to get a few drinks into the discussion, reveal the results and see what conclusions we can muster.

As always.. more to follow. Just not yet on a defined path!