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.
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?
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.
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.
The Whole Brain® Model (shown above), based on 30 years of research, is a validated metaphor for how we think, providing a useful framework to diagnose and describe the different types of thinking involved in any organization. It divides thinking into four quadrants, two on the “left brain” side and two on the “right brain” side. All four of the different thinking modes are in use and available to all of us, but we tend to prefer certain types over others.
In what kinds of situations can Whole Brain® Thinking be used?
Any situation that requires thinking that goes beyond a given quadrant's specialized mode can benefit from Whole Brain® Thinking. To insure that each quadrant has been explored in a given process, an approach called a Walk-Around™ is used. (The Walk-Around™ pad is a great tool for facilitating this.)
Here are four examples of frequently used applications of Whole Brain® Thinking:
Most decisions benefit from a thought process that includes the review of multiple options and perspectives. A typical example is the purchase of a car. Quadrant A thinkers look at information on the actual performance of the vehicle. Quadrant B thinkers read a consumer report to gather research on the reliability and practical features (trunk size, safety records, etc.) of the vehicle. Quadrant C thinkers test drive the car to see if it “feels” right. And Quadrant D focuses on the aesthetics, color, styling and innovations of each model.
Using Whole Brain® Thinking—the thinking of all quadrants—contributes to a better choice and avoids unpleasant surprises. Overlooking even one quadrant can result in a less than ideal outcome.
Every problem situation can benefit from a Quadrant A review of the data and facts, as well as an analysis of the real problem at hand; the Quadrant D “big-picture” context and possible creative ideas; Quadrant C viewpoint of the “customer” of the problem and how the problem affects others; and Quadrant B step-by-step process to solve the problem and implement the solution.
Improving team interactions and performance
Most teams are formed to make the most of the differences among team members. But very often those differences stand in the way of the team living up to its potential. Whole Brain® Thinking can help a team to acknowledge the differences among team members and then use those differences to make the most of the ideas of each team member. In addition, once a team knows its preferences it can use that knowledge to enhance its communication with other teams and work groups which may have thinking preferences that are quite different.
The objective of most communication is to convey an idea, transfer information or persuade someone. How many times have you experienced the frustration of delivering a message only to realize that the other person “just didn’t get it.” In order to communicate effectively, it's important to understand the “language” and mindset of the person(s) you are communicating with. A diagnosis of the thinking preferences of the audience can provide the critical planning information you need to tailor your language and presentation to the audience. When the audience's preferences are in doubt, taking a Whole Brain® approach to communication ensures that you've covered all the “languages.” This reduces the possibility of miscommunication and improves the chance that your message will be successfully received by the audience.
This guest post was contributed by Herrmann International Asia.
In addition to the thinking preferences of people, we can also use the Whole Brain® Model to diagnose processes, organizational cultures, vision and value statements, and a host of other systems we engage with on a daily basis. How are you applying Whole Brain® Thinking to get better results?
As new challenges place greater demands on businesses to be nimbler, smarter and more innovative, companies are looking for the most efficient and effective ways to rapidly build the capabilities of their high-potential employees.
With the recent announcement of the US Distance Learning Association (USDLA) Awards, Herrmann International’s program, The Thinking Accelerator™ featuring HBDIinteractive™, is demonstrating that a Whole Brain® approach – both in content and delivery methods – is vital for addressing today's workplace performance challenges.
This blended learning solution received the USDLA's 2010 Gold Award for Best Practices in Distance Learning Programming. It was also recognized last fall with a Silver Learning in Practice Award for Excellence in Content from Chief Learning Officer Magazine.
Originally developed with IBM as part of its global new leader development program, The Thinking Accelerator™ featuring HBDIinteractive™ gives companies the ability to meet learners “where they are” with insights into their own thinking preferences and skills to apply Whole Brain® Thinking to improve their on-the-job effectiveness. It is now being implemented by organizations of all sizes and industries in a variety of applications.
Some are deploying it to meet individual learner needs while others are finding it useful in ramping up large-scale initiatives spanning continents. We’ve heard about its role in initiatives to improve teamwork, communication and innovation in addition to leadership development – all the critical skills organizations are dealing with in the 21st century work environment.
And beyond traditional elearning, many HBDI® Certified Practitioners are using it in conjunction with classroom workshops. As Deb DeNure, founder of DB Associates, told us:
“Ultimately it helps learners to be self-directed and learn to communicate in an appropriate fashion for the situation.”
The essence of Whole Brain® Thinking and learning.
Tell us: How are you using the Thinking Accelerator™ to get better results?
Haven’t seen it yet? Be sure to contact us to learn more about this award-winning learning solution.