Mark Miller | VP of Marketing, Emergenetics International

Mark Miller | VP of Marketing, Emergenetics International

To gain findings for the Emergenetics Industry Insights Survey, we surveyed more than 150 professionals from all levels and industries, to gain access to the brightest minds in training and development and talent management.

Every organization faces both unique and not-so-unique challenges on a daily basis. Overcoming many of these challenges—especially in areas like Management, HR, and Learning and Development—relies on understanding.

In our previous two articles, we found that there is a link between the lack of communication in the workplace and organizational communication in implementing business objectives. Here is our next question we are exploring with our research participants.

Part 3: What criteria do organizations use to select project teams?

Although the results seem obvious therein lays a bigger story. A majority of organizations form teams based solely on functionality and expertise without regard to the thinking and behavioral preferences of group members. These factors were the two most common criteria identified in our survey, at 53% in experience and 54% in expertise.

This is a traditional view of team functionality with experts coming together on a common goal and with similar expertise; but does it equate to the highest productivity for teams?

Taking functional experience into account when forming teams is necessary – the team must have the skills and experience necessary to accomplish a set of goals. But our own research and an example from Harvard Business Review The Science of Building Great Teams, creates a compelling case for building teams based on a new set of criteria—teams that have cognitive diversity and are composed of excellent communicators.

Only 21% of respondents took into account how team members think and behave when forming teams. This was the lowest score of all the options (aside from “Random” which, shockingly was chosen by 9% of respondents. Again, thinking and behavior may not be the most obvious team formation criteria, but consider a team that is strong on an individual level but whose members have conflicting styles and behaviors that inhibit their ability to perform and innovate.

American Society for Mechanical Engineering reports on research they conducted with Stanford University that showed “teams do better when they are composed of people with the widest possible range of personalities.” Building from that, Harvard Business Review has conducted extensive research with teams, showing that “patterns of communication [were] the most important predictor of a team’s success.”

So teams that have a cognitively diverse spectrum of members who can understand where each person is coming from and communicate well via that understanding translate into the most successful teams. It is a pretty stunning revelation that team success doesn’t always (or even readily) result from highly experienced groups.

The Emergenetics International approach to team building relies on the same principles as the Stanford research—bringing together diverse thinking perspectives (representing the full gamut of Analytical, Structural, Social, and Conceptual preferences) in combination with broad behavioral tendencies (Expressiveness, Assertiveness and Flexibility)—to create a rounded and whole approach (a Whole Emergenetics team, or Power of WEteam).

Teams can and should be built not only with an eye for functionality but with an emphasis on thinking and behavioral preferences, which leads to greater communication in the workplace, stronger organizational communication as a whole, and of course higher performance. Balanced perspectives, along with a wider range of thinking and expression, promote different styles of discussion, and encourage out-of-the-box thinking.

Despite the evidence, it’s not always easy to take theory into the real world—but the advantages are now clear.

One additional significant finding from this survey was that only 30% of those surveyed take into account organizational strategic alignment when building teams. An interesting result, since this would seem to be a major strategic advantage for organizations; greater alignment for teams allows organizations to function on a large scale and outside the vacuum of team issues and challenges.

Organizations that take into account the larger picture when building teams have a distinct advantage—namely, they can build teams that actively complement each other and create synergies to boost the performance of the organization as a whole. Creating that synergy on an organizational level will be nearly impossible if it is not also present at the team level.

What’s the bottom line? Organizations have a choice–to change the way they build teams (not easy) or rely on the same old formulas (ineffective). It’s about actively seeking to understand employee thinking and behavior, using that understanding when forming teams and stoking team communication to be more productive and produce more innovative solutions.

Check out our blog series that details our research and highlights our findings – see Introduction, Part 1 and Part 2.