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Turn Strangers Into A High Performing Team

by | Apr 14, 2020

Amy Edmonson’s TED talk on building remote teams

This amazing video about building remote from 2010 couldn’t be more relevant in today’s Covid-stricken times…

I came across Amy Edmondson’s talk ‘How To Turn A Group of Strangers Into A Team’ today and whilst it was filmed in 2010, it is still so relevant today to our new-found reality of building remote teams during Covid.

Edmonson talks about the idea ‘teaming’ – that’s teamwork on the fly. It’s coordinating and collaborating with people across boundaries of all kinds – expertise, distance, time zone, you name it – to get work done.

She says: “Think of your favourite sports team, because this is different. Sports teams work together: that magic, those game-saving plays. Now, sports teams win because they practice.

But you can only practice if you have the same members over time. And so you can think of teaming… Sports teams embody the definition of a team, the formal definition. It’s a stable, bounded, reasonably small group of people who are interdependent in achieving a shared outcome. 

You can think of teaming as a kind of pickup game in the park, in contrast to the formal, well-practiced team. Now, which one is going to win in a playoff? The answer is obvious.

So why do I study teaming? It’s because it’s the way more and more of us have to work today. With 24/7 global fast-paced operations, crazy shifting schedules and ever-narrower expertise, more and more of us have to work with different people all the time to get our work done. We don’t have the luxury of stable teams. 

Now, when you can have that luxury, by all means do it. But increasingly for a lot of the work we do today, we don’t have that option.”

How team building comes in the unlikeliest of places

Edmonson uses the example of the Chilean mining disaster and how people came together from many different areas to rescue the miners, which seemed impossible. Ideas came from André Sougarret, the mining engineer who was appointed by the government to lead the rescue, from NASA, Chilean Special Forces and volunteers all over the world.

So her rallying cry is: “How quickly can you find the unique talents, skills and hopes of your neighbour, and how quickly, in turn, can you convey what you bring? Because for us to team up to build the future we know we can create that none of us can do alone, that’s the mindset we need.”

Abraham Lincoln said once, “I don’t like that man very much. I must get to know him better.” Surely this extraordinary attitude is what we need in our lives right now.

We’re devising a whole suite of e-learning modules and online creativity training courses to help keep everyone ahead of the game. And to build better, more creative teams for the future.

Don’t let your organization’s creative potential go untapped. Join our small, residential creative leaders programme to up your creative confidence and learn how to lead a culture of creativity underpinned by well-researched principles and methods. Find out more here.