|Last modification||May 17, 2017|
|Pattern formats||OPR Alexandrian|
The right mixture of people is more creative. Team up with people you like. Include in your team experts from your domain but also from other domains
A new project is on its way and there is a highly innovative outcome expected: a new product or improvement, a marketing strategy, or a new service to develop. You are about to form a new team to address the challenge and meet the high expectation. We are inspired by other people and teams come up with more ideas than single persons.
The wrong configuration of team members is highly ineffective. People who dislike each other will soon run into conflicts. People who are too friendly with each other have a tendency to not leave the comfort zone. What is the right mixture of people to generate new and innovative ideas?
Field of Forces
If you setup a team with people from the same domain they have a common understanding and a shared culture. However, they are trapped in their own value system. Moreover, there is a hierarchy of experts and sooner or later the alpha animal will become the leader and suppress other thoughts.
Which ideas and thoughts are valued depends on social evaluations. Whether a good or bad idea is seen as such depends on the group and the social environment.
While the individual might come up with a good idea, it is actually through the process of interaction that new ideas are triggered. Thoughts are encouraged by others. A remote remark can spark new ideas.
Trust and friendship between team members leads to more relaxed situations that makes the generation of new ideas more likely. However, if things get too comfortable there is the risk that everyone sticks to old habits instead of innovating.
Today’s problems are highly complex and there are usually many different talents needed to tackle it as a whole.
Therefore, build teams with members from different disciplines with intermediate levels of social intimacy. Half of the team should be people who know each other well and have proven to work fine together in the past. The other half should be new people who bring in new views.
Most creative individuals stress the importance of working in a group and listen to ideas and inputs from other people and their work.
A heterogeneous group is not just a collection of different talents but a multiplication of talents. Each talent brings in a different view, thus implicitly are taken on the problem. We all know that one individual behaves different in various social groups: at home, at work, in the bowling hall. Hence, the wholeness of a social situation pulls out different sides of the same person. A team that has experts from different fields, including newbies, is more likely to pull out a new side of each talent. While each individual contributes differently, the team members should share a common vision and form a (a pattern described by Iba & Isaku).
Moreover, in a heterogeneous group each expert respects the domain knowledge of the others and it is less likely to have a competition about who knows most. It is appreciated that everyone brings in different values.
To have a team that works well it is beneficial to have people who know and trust each other. We often come up with good ideas in a friendly atmosphere (such as in ) and if we are surrounded by friends. It is easier to have fun with friends and humor is generally seen as highly related to creative thinking because it means an unexpected change in the traditional thought patterns.
If you are surrounded by old friends you can interact efficiently due to the familiar structure but you need some impulses and new ideas from outside. It’s good to feel safe but one should not only rest in the comfort zone. Too many friends “may rot the party”. You need some critical thinkers and sometimes it is harder to push friends or remind them of their roles.
A small team of software developers was working on an innovative new product. They had a clear idea of what the product should do. Later in the project they hired an external company to support the implementation. The developers from that company brought in new views and questioned some of the assumptions made by the in-house team. This helped to bring the product faster to marked and have more relevant features.
When I worked for e-teaching.org the project members had all very different backgrounds – including biologists, philosophers, psychologists, rhetoricians, educators and computer scientists. The mixture helped to break our narrow-minded focus within our own discipline and think out of the box.
- Kohls, C. (2014). Dream teams at the right place. In Proceedings of the 19th European Conference on Pattern Languages of Programs (EuroPLoP 2014) (p. 3). New York:ACM.
- Plattner, H., Meinel, C., & Weinberg, U. (2009). Design Thinking: Innovation lernen, Ideenwelten öffnen. München:mi.
- Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1996). Flow and the psychology of discovery and invention. New York: Harper Collins.
- Iba, T. & Isaku, T. (2013). Collaboration Patterns - A Pattern Language for Creative Collaborations. In Proceedings of the 19th European Pattern Languages of Programs conference (EuroPLoP 2013). New York:ACM.
- Foster, J. (2007). How to get ideas. San Francisco: BerrettKoehler.
- Lehrer, J. (2012). Imagine: How creativity works. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
- De Bono, E. (1990). Lateral thinking. London: Penguin Books.