Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Collaboration Conundrums

Harvard Business Review has an interesting article by Lynda Gratton and Tamara Erickson. It points out some of the paradoxes of teams.

  • We know that diversity is a strength once a team is well formed. Diversity brings forth creativity and insight that comes from multiple perspectives held by those from different backgrounds and viewpoints. The paradox.. research shows that the higher the proportion of people who do not know anyone else on the team and the greater the diversity, the less likely the team members share knowledge.
  • Knowledge is good. Right? We want our teams to have specialize knowledge. We want the experts, but research shows that the greater the proportion of highly educated specialists on a team, the more likely the team is to disintegrate into unproductive fights. Kinda sounds like a faculty meeting...
  • Virtual teams.. it is the great solution for all of us who travel too much. Wikipedia.. Facebook.. etc.. the Net is allowing us to work together in new ways at a distance. It all makes sense, but research shows that as teams become more virtual... collaboration declines.
So what is the message for leadership. There are great examples where the above paradoxes were overcome. The question is are these examples, these successes we see the norm or are they exceptions to the rule. Think of the last time you were on a team that was diverse, has self-proclaimed experts, or were meeting at a distance. These teams have much to offer, but we have to accept that this is a huge challenge. The first step is to pick up the latest version of Harvard Business Review and read it. The second step is to ponder the following questions:

How do we build trust with individuals who are different from us?

How do we build trust with individuals who perceive they know more than us?

How do we build trust with individuals who are at a distance from us?

TRUST.. sort of becoming a theme for this blogger lately...

1 comment:

Virginia said...

My goodness! These questions are very pertinent to an assignment I've recently taken on. I will be helping three small groups/teams work together in the wiki environment. One of the teams is composed of members who are mostly in the same state. The other two teams are comprised of educators at several different unversities.

I agreed to take it on because I have the opportunity to bring the core members together for one face-to-face meeting. I believe that is a critical step to helping them recognize the strengths each member brings to the table. It is my hope that once they see each other, it will be harder for them to return home and not do what they've committed to doing. And, I do hope that we can begin to build trust between the members.

I suppose it can be done at a distance, but as you noted, Mitch, it is a huge challenge to get it done that way.

Thanks for the blog!