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Boost The Buzz: 4 Factors To Fire Up Creative Teamwork

Does your team buzz? Are you and your team working together in a creative environment where ideas are flowing, and everyone feels it? In this short post, find out 4 ways to boost the buzz in your creative team.



In The Hard Science of Teamwork, Harvard Business Review, Alex “Sandy” Pentland outlines four characteristics of teams that are “clicking.” As head of MIT’s Human Dynamics Laboratory and the MIT Media Lab Entrepreneurship Program, Pentland’s motivation is to measure, document and understand what makes good teamwork. His unique synthesis of four characteristics offers valuable insights for creative teams—and is remarkably practical to put into practice.

As cited in this great HBR article, the four factors of ‘buzzing’ teams include:

1. Communicate frequently.

2. Talk and listen in equal measure, equally among members.

3. Engage in frequent informal communication.

Explore for ideas and information outside the group.

At first glance, what stands out is what is not here. It’s not about the content or the ‘what’ is exchanged. It’s about the ‘how.’ The dimensions of the way things are communicated show up in timing, interaction, equality and openness to share learning.

Whether you’re working in a team that is in one office or 100% remote—it’s inspiring to think of how these principles can be put into practice—right away.

Here’s a few thoughts on how to put these 4 factors into action.

1. Communicate frequently

According to Pentland’s research, the ideal number of interactions is 12 per hour. More or less than that and there’s a marked fall off in team connectivity.

This may seem like a lot or a little, depending on your perspective and situation. Consider what is the best way to add frequency to your team.

Collaborating is alot more engaging when things don’t come always in the same form. For example, sharing an idea via whiteboard sketch is completely different than talking about an idea or writing it up in an email.

If you’re working as a remote creative team—keep an eye on varying the media for different interactions. Switch amongst emails, sketches, texts, chats and video check-ins to add some spice to the mix.

2. Equality: Talk and listen in equal measure, among members

Does this sound like your team? If so, great! If not, take a moment and get started.

Listen carefully and give your undivided attention.

Listen without multi-tasking.

Listen until the other person finishes expressing the thought.

Listen and then, confirm for understanding.

Listen and draw a sketch of what you’ve understood.

Listen with open attention, not mentally planning your response.

Listen with authentic interest.

If you usually hold back and don’t express your ideas, now is the time to practice.

Speak up and share your ideas one-on-one.

Speak up in groups and share your ideas.

Show your ideas in rough sketches.

Show and speak about your ideas with a 3D model.

Speak about your ideas in an informal narrated video.

Share your ideas in written form. Follow up with a call.

Get face-to-face with instant messaging, video conferencing.

Next, look for opportunities to listen and talk equally amongst members. If you’re used to speaking more frequently with people you know, or co-workers at your location, make an extra effort.

Watch for habits of connecting more with people who share your expertise, location, gender, generation, background or organizational role. Shifting the patterns amongst your team will change routines of dominance for the better.

3. Engage in frequent informal communication

Research shows that best teams spend about half their time communicating outside of formal meetings. This is great news for freelancers and creative agencies. It means that informal asides during meetings, water cooler-type connections, and hallway chats are extremely valuable.

If you’re working in a remote team, it’s great to build informality into your team. Think about other ways to connect, outside of formal team gatherings. Just a few to consider and build on:

Add a pre-meeting catch up for informality.

Set up virtual office hours when anyone can pop in to privately share ideas.

Encourage meet-ups via chat, sketches and whiteboard stories.

Provide ways for people to give feedback anonymously

Make time to check in with team members one-on-one

Ask your peers for their suggestions to increase informal idea sharing.

4. Explore for ideas and information outside the group.

The best teams connect with different outside sources and bring back what they learn to the group.

This might include reviews of articles, books, talks and videos. Additionally, look for ways to encourage your team to share ideas found at conferences, meet-ups and industry events.

How can you put this into place?

Share ideas from articles, posts and videos

Teach-ins to explore ideas from courses and trainings

Debrief learnings after team projects

Share insights from conferences and trainings

Create frequent updates to share ideas for team performance

In Summary

Everyone wants to be part of a creative team that is clicking and cruising full steam ahead. The good news? With these four factors, you can refine the ‘how’ of your team’s communication—frequency, equality, openness and sharing learning.

How About You?

What are your thoughts on how to increase collaboration in your team?

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