Building Business Teams Part 4

In the first three articles of this series of seven, I put forward a proposition that there are two types of business teams.  Teams that have spirit and teams that don’t.  Business teams with spirit are winners.  Teams without spirit are losers.   The previous three articles each addressed one of the seven characteristics of winning business teams with spirit:

  • Have an Inspiring  Shared Vision
  • Think  and Act as a Team
  • Demonstrate Courage in Words and Action
  • The fourth characteristic of winning business teams is that they know how to use 1+1=3, out-the-box thinking.

1+1=3 thinking

It is obvious that in order to see the vast possibilities and opportunities available to them business teams will need the ability to create a broader view of whatever issue they are discussing.  I call this 1+1=3 thinking.  And to think more broadly they will need the ability to break the mould of their traditional thinking.  Swatch is a great example of this.  They were getting beaten up by their Japanese competitors and had to do something different to survive.  They challenged the traditional way of thinking and combined Swiss watch making skills with Italian fashion design and then they borrowed plastic engineering skills from LEGO.  The result was exceptional growth and revenue.  How were they able to think in this extremely lateral way?   What holds so many business teams back from thinking outside the box even when something that has become outdated?

Our EGO Gets in the Way

It is our ego that gets in our way. Our defensive egos find it very hard to challenge the status quo, to think creatively and to come up with an innovative solution.   This is because our ego only lets us hear half of the story and half of the facts – it filters what it wants us to hear.  In addition, our ego is self-protective and self-righteous.  So when our ego has control we don’t invite dialogue.  Our ego does not  enjoy having it’s assumptions challenged and is not interested in points of view that do not support its own.   Instead our ego causes us to spend huge amounts of energy justifying, intellectualizing and rationalizing our position.  With ego as our driver we don’t believe we need to change or that there is anything else we need to know.  This gives us a lopsided and limited worldview.

Effects of EGO

The multiplicative effect of ego thinking is best illustrated by this equation:   ½  x ½  = ¼.
This means that ½ the story x ½ the facts = ¼ the perceived possibilities= uninspired decisions = uninspired performance. This equation describes a team that continues to beat the same old drum, sometimes faster, sometimes louder, and while they do this they miss seeing new possibilities that would take them powerfully into the future.

Corporate Examples

Coca Cola is a perfect example of ½  x ½  = ¼ thinking. They missed some of the most important beverage trends in the past 20 years. They were late going into fruit flavored teas – Snapple did this first; late going into sports drinks – Gatorade did this first; late going into designer water – Nestle is No.1 in the world in that business; late going into new age beverages  and still trying to catch up to companies such as Red Bull.

Teams With Spirit

Teams who have spirit encourage 1+1=3 out-the-box thinking by using a process that is based on 7 spirited behaviours. They:

  • Study other companies, in any industry, that have successfully taken thought beyond that where it has been before and applied 1+1=3 thinking, such as Southwest Airlines, Apple iTunes, Starbucks, Virgin, amongst others.  Study their leaders too.
  • When discussing an issue, brainstorm and list the following: 
    • What traditional assumptions are we currently using in our thinking about this issue?   In other words they ask themselves what thoughts and beliefs do we hold that keeps us stuck with ½  x ½  = ¼ reductionist thinking?
  • They brainstorm the following question: 
    • What if we rejected each of these assumptions?  What would we do differently?
    • Encourage dialogue and debate amongst the team.  And make a list of all the suggestions, ideas and insights that emerge from this dialogue.
  • Suspend judgment – ask many questions so that you understand each person’s point of view clearly, but don’t ask questions to prove why it cannot be done.
  • Integrate as many of the ideas as possible that emerged in the brainstorm, creating a integrative solution or plan that would be described as ‘fundamentally different.’
  • Have the courage to communicate and execute this with passion.

Look for the fifth article in this series:  Building Spirited Business Teams: Making Profitable Decisions


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