Mark Miller

Mark Miller | VP of Marketing, Emergenetics International

Teamwork is universal. No matter the industry or discipline, teams are crucial to the realization of any major goal. Even a highly individualized profession, like coding, is ultimately a team sport. Even if it is just the reviewing of code, and exists fully online through virtual interactions, a team mentality prevails. There’s still an accountability factor and an interactive force that drives the end product.

And teamwork is getting more and more complicated. According to a study by the Harvard Business Review, technology has played a significant role in the increasing size of teams. “A decade or so ago, the common view was that true teams rarely had more than 20 members. Today, according to our research, many complex tasks involve teams of 100 or more. However, as the size of a team increases beyond 20 members, the tendency to collaborate naturally decreases.”

With its ever increasing complex makeup, a team must be deliberate about fostering collaboration among its members. Yet, even when collaboration is identified as a goal, it does not always bring about success.

An article in Forbes showcases why collaboration is or is not successful. From an international survey done with Cisco, four things stood out that factored directly into success with collaboration:

  • Trusting relationships
  • Turning human interaction into results
  • Decision-making vs. consensus building
  • A collaborative culture

Notice anything about this list? It all starts with the recognition of where people are coming from and creating an atmosphere of openness. It’s simply not enough to put people together—those people need understanding, purpose and recognition that their ideas are valid and will be implemented.

CollaborationGetting to this level of collaboration means getting a true baseline on people, not just giving them the tools to work together. No amount of technology, meetings, or project plans can make collaboration work.

Think about this scenario that our firm recently encountered with a client. A team comes together to cross-functionally solve a customer service challenge with roots in both technology and time sensitivity. With members of teams from IT, sales and HR all in the same room, there should be a strong case for understanding what needs to be done. After all, multiple perspectives are present and everyone’s focus is centered on the problem.

But, what actually happened was a collection of people who listened to others points-of-view without seeking to understand what they were actually saying. They remained in their own paradigm rather than attempting to identify why different perspectives were offered.

This group was collaborating, but not realizing collaborative results. Different perspectives and behavioral modes of action were present, but weren’t being harnessed and exploited to bring about better results.

Look back at the list from Forbes—the trust wasn’t built, the culture wasn’t set, and there was an inability to objectively distinguish when decisions and consensus were needed.

However, what if that team could know what made each member tick? Not what job they performed but their cognitive blueprint- what drove their decisions and thought process? That’s harnessing cognitive diversity.  True collaboration accounts for differences, streamlines actions, and provides each member with purpose according to their own preferences.

To get to true collaboration, you first need to establish a foundation— results driven, culture, purpose and trust— built from greater understanding of the individuals within. But to get to collaborative action, you take those ingredients and add in the recognition of cognitive diversity. Then the team can not only work together better, they can actually seek out dissimilar perspectives, and realize higher quality business results.