"We've discovered that some things matter much less than you may suspect when building a great team. Getting the smartest people, for example."
HBR has a new issue out this month, April 2012 on teams. In my LinkedIn review of what's new, I see that there may be some updates to the team models and traditions of the likes of Belbin, Tuckman, Gibb-Dannemiller and crew.
Excerpted from a pre-publication blog post by Alex "Sandy" Pentland:
"...I've encountered teams that are "clicking." I've experienced the "buzz" of a group that's blazing away with new ideas in a way that makes it seem they can read each others' minds."
How we communicate turns out to be the most important predictor of team success, and as important as all other factors combined, including intelligence, personality, skill, and content of discussions.
MIT's Human Dynamics Laboratory used wearable electronic sensors to capture how people communicate in real time. Not only did they determine the characteristics that make up great teams, but they also described those characteristics mathematically.
What's more, we've discovered that some things matter much less than you may suspect when building a great team. Getting the smartest people, for example.
Our data show that great teams:
• Communicate frequently. In a typical project team a dozen or so communication exchanges per working hour may turn out to be optimum; but more or less than that and team performance can decline.
• Talk and listen in equal measure, equally among members. Lower performing teams have dominant members, teams within teams, and members who talk or listen but don't do both.
• Engage in frequent informal communication. The best teams spend about half their time communicating outside of formal meetings or as "asides" during team meetings, and increasing opportunities for informal communication tends to increase team performance.
• Explore for ideas and information outside the group. The best teams periodically connect with many different outside sources and bring what they learn back to the team.
You'll notice that none of the factors outlined above concern the substance of a team's communication.
...According to our data, it's as true for humans as for bees: How we communicate turns out to be the most important predictor of team success, and as important as all other factors combined, including intelligence, personality, skill, and content of discussions. The old adage that it's not what you say, but how you say it, turns out to be mathematically correct.
Read the full blog post, The Hard Science of Teamwork, here.