It is an idea so simple, a suggestion so commonplace, it is hard to believe it can be something so overlooked or neglected. In their book ‘Organisations’ authors Bryan Bonner and Alexander Bolinger write about how to get the best out of a team formed to take on a task.
Get the team members to discuss the relevant knowledge they each bring to the table.
Their research showed that teams adopting this simple practice far out-performed teams that ignored this step and which rushed head-long into the task at hand. Bonner and Bolinger believe that sharing personal knowledge helps shift the criterion for power in the team from that of ‘social influence’ to one of ‘informational influence’. Ultimately this makes for better decision-making and team performance.
The salient point the authors’ make is that whilst the process ‘might sound simple’, it represents a ‘significant departure’ from the standard practice of most teams. They assert that, ‘on their own, teams rarely pause for this kind of reflection’ – and I have found this to be true in the work we do with leadership teams. Bonner and Bolinger write in the context of teams brought together for a specific task but I wonder if this isn’t something that more familiar and established teams should be doing as well? The failure to reassess, to pause and consider what new team members may be able to contribute to a determined direction or strategy is perhaps a failing more common than we might believe possible.
So, take a few moments at your next team meeting to consider what knowledge individuals bring to the table and you might be surprised at the additional resources and wisdom at your disposal. Move beyond the titles and tag lines that define and describe functional competence, expectation and focus in your team. The result might well be to extract and realize deeper insights and wisdom that would serve to invite the best out of your team. If nothing else it sure to be an engaging conversation!
Go on, do it!