Leading Creative Teams (Stanford Leading Innovation notes)

Building the team

Superstars aren’t lone geniuses or  dazzling independent performers

The “lone inventor” is a myth:  Great innovations happen in social/ teams and networks.

  • Darwin’s network and team (esp. by correspondence, also a ‘PR’ team who defended his ideas)
  • Thomas Edison’s lab (lousy inventor but great at building the lab and business)
  • The duos that started HP, Sun, Yahoo!, and  Google (Facebook, Zuckerberg and all)

Leader’s goal = the “product” at the Hasso Plattner  Institute of  Design: Creative Collaborators

Who are the real superstars?

  • People who spread their ideas to others
  • Borrow ideas from others (and give them  credit)
  • and help others succeed.

GE, IDEO, Genencor, McKinsey, and P&G – very different reward systems, all the same  philosophy: If you’re a low performer and good team player supportive of culture, you’ll get chances. High performer undermine the team (and fail to collaborate), you’re out:

Cooperation and information sharing is not  considered in compensation decisions – if  people don’t do it, they just don’t get  promoted. Former Procter & Gamble CEO A.G. Lafley

Readings

Microsoft’s Downfall

Dysfunctional Internal Competition at Microsoft

Diego Rodriguez: It’s tempting to judge against big picture goals but you’ve got to be careful not to take people out of the moment, delivering a great client experience right now. Grok the gestalt of the team. Intervene or not. 3 things to watch for in terms of enlightened action:

  • Cold feet. Is something freaking the team out (of innovative behaviours and decisions)?
  • Are they just trying to be busy? Assist with focus (or too much focus)
  • There should be some angst, even fear in the room (maybe ask provocative questions)

Look for dignity, beauty, joy and elegance

Experts, novices, and mind of the child

Put more faith in novices, less in  experts (and blend them together):

  • Experts: People who know what has been done,  what can be done, and what can’t be done.   (but these opinions can be strongly held)
  • The naïve: People who don’t know what can’t be  done or is impossible to do.
  • Variations: Bring in people who are experts on  the “wrong” thing, or a related but different thing (Edison was famous for this, e.g. with the phonograph)

Google started off knowing too little about what they couldn’t do 🙂

Ditto Jobs and Wozniak (Home-brew computing company). Steve Markkula (adult supervision)

Zuckerberg relying on Sandberg for business smarts

Deal with the bad apples In the best teams “problem” members get quick negative feedback and warnings, and if reform fails, are expelled quickly.   Leaders – formal and informal: don’t duck the dirty work.

Bad is stronger than good:

  • “5 to 1 rule” for encounters in personal relationships and at work
  • Eliminating the negative is more important than accentuating the positive
  • Bad apples – including deadbeats, downers, and rude jerks – bring down performance 30% to 40% compared to teams that don’t have them
  • Distraction and contagion

Perry Klebahn:

  • You need to clarify the culture – create the guard-rails of the group
  • Are the goals clear?
  • Managers job is to focus the team on the key goals

Running the team

The case for Small and stable teams

J. Richard Hackman’s rule: “No work team should have membership in the double digits …. the number of performance problems a team encounters increases exponentially as team size increases.”

“Optimal” team size is 4.6 in one study – Navy Seals “fire teams”  and McKinsey engagement teams have four members

“Apple also consciously tries to behave like a startup, most notably by putting small teams on crucial projects. To wit: just two engineers wrote the code for converting Apple’s Safari browser for the iPad, a massive undertaking.” Adam Lashinsky, Inside Apple

Stable membership linked to team performance:

  1. Surgical teams, semiconductor start‐ups, R&D teams, and flight cockpit crews
  2. NTSB: 73% of flight incidents occur during the crew’s first day together; 44% on their first flight

Innovation requires extreme optimism… punctuated by input from realists and pessimists

Why optimism? It reduces the failure rate! Emotions are contagious

The self‐fulfilling prophecy

  • If you believe you can, you can
  • If you believe you can’t, you can’t

“Confidence in nonsense is required.” Burt Rutan

Why innovation requires a few grumpy and pessimistic people:

  • They are better at finding flaws
  • They are better at pulling the plug, at stopping organizations from throwing good money after bad

Happy Worriers The best of both worlds?

David Kelley argues that the key to leading innovative work is finding ways to instill creative confidence in people.  Ted Talk

Money as a motivator

Psychologists and economists can show you hundreds – really thousands – of studies that show people will work harder to obtain financial rewards. But there are two big problems:

  • Getting the rewards right is REALLY hard
  • Money turns us into selfish loners

Steve Kerr: On the Folly of Rewarding “A” While Hoping for “B”

http://www.sba.oakland.edu/Faculty/york/Readings434/Readings/On%20the%20folly.pdf

The power of being ‘reminded’ of money (Apple try to keep it out of staffs’ thoughts)

Nine experiments by Kathleen Vohs (involving Monopoly money):

  1. Less likely to give others help
  2. Less likely to ask for help
  3. Sat further away from others
  4. More likely to choose to work alone Didn’t realize experiments were about money – but led to selfishness and self‐sufficiency

Intrinsic Rewards

Doing interesting work itself. Dan Pink based on Drive Ted Talk

Stand-Up meetings

Research on 111 groups, all studying the same problem:   Stand‐up meetings were 34% shorter but just as effective.

David Darragh, CEO of Reily Foods: Has a daily 15 minute stand‐up meeting with his top team: “The rhythm that frequency generates allows relationships to develop, personal ticks to be understood, stressors to be identified, personal strengths and weaknesses to be put out in the light of day, etc. The role of stand‐up meetings is not to work on strategic issues or even to resolve an immediate issue.”

Huddle

Stand up every 20-30 minutes – cardio-vascular benefits

Learn how and when to fight

Innovation happens when people respect each  other – but fight like crazy over ideas.

Hallmarks of effective creative abrasion

  • Strong opinions, weakly held
  • Fight as if you are right, listen as if you are  wrong

‘I now disagree with my own standpoint. I was wrong, let’s get on using your view

In terms of creative work: “When two people in business always agree,  one of them is unnecessary.” William Wrigley

Not so in operational work, you generally want agreement around routine work

Brad Bird of Pixar Director, The Incredibles and Ratatouille “I’ve been fired for being disruptive several times…  but this is the first time I’ve been hired for it”

“Everyone will get humiliated and  encouraged together.”

Don’t fight when generating ideas,  such as when brainstorming

Stop fighting after the decision is made  – it undermines implementation

Intel motto:  Disagree and then commit 

Fighting a Good Fight

 

Author: briney001

Technology Innovation Manager. Thinks disruption and ideas are good things. Adept at developing shared understanding, and framing problems as opportunities