Getting to Great

Posted by jlubans on August 26, 2019

Caption. NOT Group-think: Collective Intelligence

There’s more being said about “Factor C” or Collective Intelligence, that so-called secret recipe for successful teams.
A BBC story, “The science of creating a dream team
delves into “C” theory and comes up with the latest research and some highly positive results.
The story uses Iceland’s upset-minded 2016 soccer team to explain what qualities make for a great team even while other teams have far more resources and talent.
How can a thinly populated nation beat nations with populations of multiple millions? Should not the latter always have the advantage? Their talent pool is huge whereas Iceland’s is miniscule.
Specifically, how could a team ranked 131st in the world beat perennial powers like England and Austria? Iceland did just that.
According to the article, the difference is in player attitudes and behaviors.
When a team is said to want a win more than the opponent that’s one example of how complacency among the mighty can lead to failure. When you think you are the best, your arrogance leaves ajar the door to defeat.
In my not-for-profit work world, smug complacency often has a very long run before undesirable consequences force a change.
Worse, that change is often imposed from outside and is far more painful than if change came from within. But, if you are the best, why change?
Let’s recap as to what C is said to be:
“C” is a predictor of group failure or success and includes three elements: participant emotional or social IQ; the number of engaged participants; and, interestingly, the number of women on the team.
We hear much about Diversity & Inclusion as essential to organizational well being and by extension, that teams built on Diversity should somehow be superior.
What the research shows is that members of the best teams have high emotional or social IQ and the ability to engage others rather than to sit mute or to rule the airwaves.
Apart from the explicit nod to women’s elevated social IQs, diversity alone is not enough to make for an effective team.
And, there’s more to these notions.
The C researchers test for “four different kinds of thinking: generating new ideas; choosing a solution based on sound judgement; negotiating to reach compromise; and finally, (possessing a) general ability at task execution.”
The results show that high scores on those ways of thinking and problem solving make for the best teams.
Scarce resources and a lack of star players may be good excuses for losing, but they do not necessarily inhibit a team from winning.
Indeed, scarcity may contribute to the sense of urgency and the latter may promote more of a full team effort.
Too many stars can lead to competition among participants (on the playing field and in the work place) and to less “sharing of the ball”.
A rugby team I wrote about, New Zealand’s “All Blacks”, also gives us clues about what team qualities contribute to victory.
Two of those are especially relevant to team effectiveness. First, there’s “Sweep the Sheds.” At game’s end, the senior players clean up the locker room. It’s an act of humility,
Second, there's the rather impolite “No Dickheads” rule.
If you are a jerk you won’t play for the All Blacks. “The All Blacks select on character as well as talent, which means some of New Zealand's most promising players never pull on the black jersey.”
Let’s return to Iceland, almost 11,000 miles north of sparsely populated New Zealand.
The BBC write-up offers two takeaways for organizations, not just soccer teams:
Hiring: Look for people with a measure of social sensitivity rather than simply employing a “star”, the person with the best individual performance. (Remember the “No Dickheads!” rule).
Hiring a player with good social skills may turn out to be far more beneficial – particularly if you already have lots of high-flying members. Obviously, if a star can be a servant-leader, then hire that star!
Role model: Make sure the team leader displays the kinds of behaviors expected within the team. For example, a leader’s “humility can be contagious.”
Her willingness to listen to others, “rather than dominating the conversation.” And, a leader who can “admit his or her mistakes” can influence the entire team and increase the overall social intelligence of each player.
Then you have a shot at getting to great.

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And, my book on democratic workplaces, Leading from the Middle, is available at Amazon.

© Copyright John Lubans 2019

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