How do you increase the efficiency of a group of people? How do you get more output from your existing human resources?
Those were the questions Charles G. DeRidder and Mark A. Wilcox examined as part of a six-year research study they conducted with the USDA Forest Service.
The premise of their study was that a diversity of thinking would help teams reach new performance benchmarks. Using the Whole Brain® Model as the foundation for their work, along with thinking style data from Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument® (HBDI®) assessments, they documented significant improvements in efficiency and effectiveness when teams were designed to include a balance of thinking preferences.
Among their findings and lessons learned:
- Teams that are balanced in terms of thinking preferences are more effective; they consider more options and make better decisions.
- Whole Brained teams were 66% more efficient than homogenous teams.
- 70% or more of the teams were “successful” when Whole Brained vs. 30% or less when not.
- Size matters: 7 members is the ideal team size.
As DeRidder and Wilcox observed, if you want to break through to the next level of production and increase team productivity/efficiency, “The answer is clear: Organize mentally balanced teams that match the task.”
Download the full research report to read more about the study, methodology and outcomes: Improving Group Productivity: Whole Brain® Teams Set New Benchmarks
Watch: In this video, Ann Herrmann-Nehdi shares tips for improving team performance.
On a recent visit to Swisscom in Bern, Switzerland, Herrmann International CEO Ann Herrmann-Nehdi explored some of the ways the telecommunications provider is integrating Whole Brain® Thinking into its culture to build the thinking agility and flexibility necessary to better serve the needs of its customers.
Watch the video to learn how Swisscom is preparing for a changing world by “living agile thinking.”
One of the things we know from the research on team performance is that getting great results from a team isn’t just about everyone getting along or coming to quick agreement. In fact, when the problems are complex or we need to push the boundaries for innovation, creative abrasion, which comes from the collaboration of diverse thinking styles and perspectives, can make the difference.
But it can also make people uncomfortable.
That’s why just having cognitive diversity on a team isn’t enough. If the process isn’t managed properly, the team can devolve into unproductive conflict, frustration and chaos.
Particularly in the case of highly diverse groups, an effective leader or facilitator is essential. The most successful team leaders value the differences on the team and encourage people to bring their best thinking to work, helping to both bridge the diversity of thought in the group and keep the Whole Brain® in mind so all perspectives are heard.
Here are some tips for managing the team’s collective brainpower and making the abrasion that sometimes occurs an advantage:
- Encourage team members to learn about and share their preferred thinking styles and discuss the impact of differences and similarities among team members on the performance of the team.
- Understand the strengths of the group and how the dominant preferences can be effectively harnessed towards reaching the team’s objectives.
- Recognize and bring in the diversity of thought necessary to get the best results.
- Use the Whole Brain® Model as a framework to guide the team’s actions. At the beginning of a project or periodically throughout the team’s engagement, ask questions from each quadrant, such as:
A. Do we have clear performance goals, objectives and measurements?
B. Do we have clear priorities, a plan and a timeline?
C. Do we have an understanding of our “customer” and each other?
D. Are we taking appropriate risks to challenge ourselves and come up with new ideas?
Don’t discount the importance of this key team role, whether it’s a manager, team lead, or even a more informal rotating assignment.
What are your tips for getting the most of a team’s cognitive diversity?
“Thinking? Why focus on thinking? I am interested in changing behavior!”
- A frustrated sales leader discussing how to address the organization’s challenges of improving top-line revenue growth, conversion rates and forecasting accuracy
In the sales world, we often focus on behavior and not the thinking that drives it, and as a result we often fail to get any kind of long-term change. Behaviors are situational and can be affected by many external factors, but thinking is at the heart of who we are, impacting how we process information, make decisions and learn.
As our VP of Sales, Orin Salas, puts it, “You can change your thinking without changing your behavior, but you can’t change your behavior without changing your thinking.”
We’ve found that sales manager/coaches who understand how they and their sales reps think and process information, and know how to apply this to the coaching process, are able to quickly cut through the noise and “get through” in a way that works most effectively for the coachee to drive the desired behaviors and results.
They can also help sales reps use their own thinking preferences more deliberately, and stretch to other styles to meet specific competency requirements. Ultimately, this means both the manager and the rep are able to spend coaching time and attention where it will deliver the biggest payoff.
Regardless of the sales coach’s own thinking preferences, all aspects are important, which is why the most successful sales coaches have the thinking agility to move beyond their comfort zones and filters, and avoid becoming trapped by their mental blind spots.
For best results, sales coaches must spend time in each of the four thinking quadrants. Here’s a Whole Brain® checklist to get you started:
What would you add to the list? For more tips on applying Whole Brain® Thinking to optimize sales performance, download the free white paper, The Mind of Successful Sales Leadership.
One thing that’s becoming clear in today’s VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous) world is that effective teams can give organizations a distinct advantage. They bring together the people power and the thinking power to get things done faster, more efficiently and more successfully.
But we also know it’s not as simple as that. There’s a reason less than a quarter of workers prefer to work on teams.
Are more team-building activities the answer? Sensitivity training? Personality and communications workshops?
These activities can be helpful, but on their own, they’re not enough. The frustrations, miscommunications, subpar results, and same issues that keep coming up, time and again, bear this out.
The problem is that too many organizations try to build trust — a key attribute of effective teams — by focusing on behavioral issues first. But because behaviors can be affected by a variety of external factors, the fix is often only a temporary one at best. To build trust, we have to focus first on what drives the team’s behaviors and actions at the root level: thinking.
Missing this key ingredient means organizations will also miss out on the full potential, power and competitive advantage teams can provide. Particularly in today’s world, as cross-functional teaming increases, more team members operate virtually and globally, and projects and problems are becoming more complex, a focus on how the team thinks will become even more critical to developing exceptional, consistently high-performing teams.
We’re creating teams to bring together and then funnel the knowledge and skills of the members towards solving business problems and achieving business outcomes. While teambuilding exercises can build camaraderie, and personality and sensitivity workshops can develop interpersonal understanding to help improve communications, none of these can really take hold without a foundation in how the team’s collective intelligence fuels business outcomes.
And after all, achieving business outcomes is what they’re there for, right?
Our next white paper will address key ways you can apply a thinking-based approach to get the most from every “meeting of the minds” so you can truly leverage the power of teams. It will also explore how to use the designed-for-business Whole Brain® framework to:
- Optimize a department’s strategic and day-to-day effectiveness
- Set virtual and far-flung teams up for success
- Make cross-functional really work
- Give “voice” to the full cognitive diversity within the team
- Strategically deploy teams to solve critical business problems
In the meantime, tell us: What are the biggest challenges you’re facing in getting the full benefits of the team’s collective intelligence? Are there any standout team experiences that come to mind? What made them work so effectively?
Share your thoughts in the comments, and be sure to check back next month to download the free white paper.
There’s a famous line from the movie The Princess Bride that could easily refer to the way so many of us define what it means to be agile leaders and managers:
“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
When I hear the word “agility,” my first thought is always: Speed. I need to constantly be moving fast, staying nimble in the face of continual changes and complexities. It’s as if the old playground game of “Think Fast!” has become the daily battle cry, and I have to not only stay ahead of the pace but also be ready to shift on a dime when the unexpected comes up.
But I’ve also come to realize there’s a real cost to this kind of thinking, particularly when it comes to my role in developing strategy. How can I be effectively agile in my thinking and decision making if I haven’t taken the time to process what’s really going on around me and what it will take to get where I need to go?
We’ve become conditioned to believe that agility always equals speed, that slowness in management is always a bad thing, and that the “left brain” concepts of step-by-step planning and deliberateness are somehow no longer really necessary in a fluid, uncertain world, one in which novelty and edginess seem to rule the day.
After all, what’s cool about critical analysis?
When it comes to agility, being fast is only part of the equation. Speed and nimbleness may be “sexy,” but they don’t replace the basics, what we know to be true about good management. An either/or approach to thinking — this idea that if you have enough speed, it cancels out the need for deliberate planning and other management essentials — will fail every time. If anything, greater levels of speed demand higher levels of managerial competence in all areas.
In other words, to be successful at going fast, you have to be successful at being slow, too.
This is a paradox managers have always had to deal with to some degree, but the tension has never been greater than today. We’ve become accustomed to moving rapidly in many different directions at once. This year we need to resolve to make the time to get more deliberate, to go slow, too.
To increase your agility:
- Banish “either/or” thinking: Swift and deliberate, open minded and decisive, consistent and adaptable – agility requires embracing an “and” mentality.
- Get back to basics: Good management never goes out of style. Especially in a complex, challenging environment, the basics not only have to be mastered, they need to be second nature.
- Use Whole Brain® Thinking: Regardless of what seems “cool” or where your thinking preferences lie, remember that all thinking styles are essential to getting the best results. If you want creativity and collaboration to flourish and succeed, you have to have a clear understanding of the facts and an effective process in place to get you there. Ultimately, it’s about finding the right balance.
Are you missing the time to go slow? Is it affecting your results? Share with us how you’re dealing with the managerial paradox of going faster while become more deliberate in your thinking.
“Agility” has become one of the hot buzzwords of the workplace today. As we settle in to a reality of rapid changes, continual uncertainty and new circumstances that have very little precedent and no clear-cut answers, everyone is feeling the pressure to adapt, to flex, to shift on a dime.
In many organizations, it’s the managers and emerging leaders who are on the front lines of this pressure. As Tom Davenport of Towers Watson put it, "Creating a resilient workplace that can deal with trauma and come out engaged on the other end is not a senior executive's role. It's a line manager's job."
Ultimately, managers are the ones responsible for bridging strategy and performance, for taking the organization from Point A to Point B faster and more effectively, even when it seems as though there’s always too much work and never enough time or resources to get it done.
A recent Forbes article describes agile leaders as those who can “handle any curve ball thrown their way. Leading through this new business environment requires the capability to sense and respond to changes in the business environment with actions that are focused, fast and flexible.”
The question is, are your managers up to the task? Between putting out fires and managing the daily workflow, getting people to bring their best thinking to work while optimizing communication time and managing relationships up, down and across the company, it takes a whole new level of intensity and skill to keep up.
Thinking is the catalyst for greater manager agility.
In essence, where agile managers outshine all the others is in their ability to successfully deconstruct today’s complexities to take advantage of the right resources for the job, and by doing so, get better results faster.
Our research has shown that the way people prefer to think impacts how they approach interactions, decisions, problems and every other aspect of work and management. By understanding and then optimizing their thinking for the situation, managers can increase their agility and overall effectiveness exponentially across the board.
Here are just a few questions to consider as you look at your management development activities in the context of building thinking agility.
- Do your managers know how to stretch beyond their thinking preferences when necessary to execute where you need to go?
- Do they know how to leverage their own brainpower and the brainpower around them in the most efficient, optimal ways?
- Do they understand how to best manage and allocate the thinking resources on a project or initiative?
- Do they know how to optimize and shorten communication time, regardless of whom they are interacting with?
- Can they quickly adapt to the communication needs of others?
- Much of management’s focus in the past has been on individuals, but effective collaboration is becoming more important for better, faster and more innovative results. Do your managers know how to encourage collaboration, bring together the best cognitive resources for the task at hand, and participate in a collaborative way to make sure objectives are achieved?
To get the “Agile Leader’s Toolbox: 4 Key Areas to Increase Agility Through Better Thinking,” download our new white paper, Navigating in an Unpredictable and Complex World: Why Thinking Agility is Critical to a Manager’s Success.
What about you? Have you seen a need for greater agility in your own role? Is it impacting the way you approach the job?
Engage the Brains of Your High Potentials & Managers As If Your Business Depends On It (Because it Does)
High-potential leaders are critical to ensuring businesses can meet their goals now and in years to come, and that’s why one of the most pressing human resource challenges today is a lack of up-and-coming managerial talent to quickly and effectively execute on critical strategies and initiatives.
A recent PWC survey found that 50% of business leaders say their biggest challenge is recruiting and retaining high-potential middle managers. The impact, they report, is being felt across the business, from cancelled or delayed strategic initiatives to missed market opportunities and an inability to innovative effectively.
In its 2012 Talent Shortage Survey report, Manpower points out that organizations need to make some changes to turn this tide:
This lack of talent will force organizations to adopt a new mindset regarding talent development, where upskilling their existing employees and developing candidates with potential becomes the norm rather than the exception.
The question is, what’s the best way to do it, particularly when time and resources are limited?
Start with thinking.
Our research shows that thinking preferences impact the way people approach communications, problems, decisions, projects and tasks. When you align management and high-potential development with what we know about thinking and the brain, you can accelerate and optimize the performance of the “bench,” helping this essential group accomplish more today and lead the way tomorrow.
Here are just a couple of areas where a framework of thinking can help your up-and-coming leaders meet the challenges of today’s business environment:
Execution: Leaders need to quickly and efficiently move the organization from Point A to Point B, and that means knowing when and how to get work done through others and manage the thinking resources on a project. Your leaders — whether they have the title or not — need to effectively leverage their own thinking and the thinking around them to successfully execute on critical strategies.
Innovation and Problem Solving: Quickly coming up with breakthrough ideas and solutions requires leaders who can bring together and manage diverse thinking and put it to work to solve problems that may not have clear-cut answers. The most effective leaders are encouraging everyone around them to bring their best thinking to work. And they understand how to lead an effective problem-solving process so even the most complex issues are addressed quickly.
These two examples are just the tip of the iceberg. In her November 29th HR.com webinar, Building Brainpower on the Bench: Motivate and Engage the Brains of High Potentials and New Leaders, Ann Herrmann-Nehdi will show you how to incorporate a Whole Brain® Thinking framework into your HR, talent management and learning & development strategies so you can develop a strong bench with the thinking capacity to lead effectively in any situation.
What do you think? Is the leadership skills gap impacting your organization?
Thinking Styles and the US Presidential Candidates: It’s HOW they think as well as WHAT they think
We know thinking preferences play a part in the decision-making process, and many US residents are facing a big, once-every-four-years decision right now: who they will elect as President.
Putting aside political or ideological differences, when we look at the thinking styles of the two major party candidates, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, and their respective running mates, Joe Biden and Paul Ryan, we can see some distinct differences. It’s an interesting exercise, because how the candidates think impacts the approaches they use in stating their cases to the voters.
To shed some light on the thinking preferences of the two parties’ candidates, we recently conducted a pro forma process, which is a way to use published information to analyze someone’s thinking and estimate what their preferences might be.
It’s not an actual HBDI® Profile generated from the assessment, but it does provide some clues about how and why different voters react to the different candidates and their different styles.
Your own thinking preferences affect your reactions to the different approaches. Whether you are more convinced by logical arguments or emotional appeals, for example, has roots in your preferences for thinking in each of the four quadrants (A - logical, B - detailed, C - expressive, D - big picture), as depicted by the Whole Brain® Model.
Understanding thinking styles helps clarify your thinking and decision making, as well as better understand how others (like our spouse/partner, family members or friends) make those decisions.
As you look at the pro forma profiles for the candidates below, consider your reaction to the styles you have observed:
- How do your thinking style preferences impact your reactions, opinions and decision-making as a voter?
- Aside from your political leanings, what approaches tend to inspire you or irritate you most?
Seventy days, 8,000-plus miles, 1,000 towns, and one momentous flame.
Preparing for what was dubbed the “logistical minefield” of the 2012 Olympic Torch Relay wasn’t so much a physical test as a mental one for the organizers and sponsors of the London Games.
As a Worldwide Partner, Coca-Cola knew it would need to unleash its full brainpower to execute with flawless communication, stay agile in the face of enormous complexity, and generate world-class teamwork from a diverse group of people who, for the most part, had never worked together before.
We recently spoke with David Barker, Strategic HR Business Partner for Coca-Cola’s London 2012 Olympic & Paralympic Games project teams, about the company’s decision to bring in the Whole Brain® methodology, training and tools to help prepare its Olympic teams for success.
As we discovered, while the Games would soon become a part of history, the framework and collaborative benefits of Whole Brain® Thinking were just getting started as a foundation for the culture going forward at Coca-Cola Great Britain.
Download the full story here for a glimpse behind the scenes of Coca-Cola’s innovative approach to preparing for the 2012 Summer Olympics.