Collaboration: the shape that says your team’s doing it

Everyone wants collaboration in their team, don’t they? Brilliant minds connecting over great ideas, creating effective solutions to the world’s problems, even (maybe even especially) when the going gets tough. It feels great!

But how can you tell whether your team’s doing it? Measurement of collaboration is challenging at the best of times, such as when your whole team’s sitting in the same office, meeting every day and socialising regularly.

But what about when your team members are spread all round the place, working from different offices, or from home? What about when some work directly for you, some for a contractor?

It turns out there is a way to measure the collaboration in a team. It’s simple – though perhaps not easy.

Just look for the star-shaped conversations.

Spotting The Stars

Two authors, independently successful at facilitating the development of creative collaborations, have both written about these star-shaped conversations in new books this year.

In Riding The Creative Rollercoaster, Nick Udall says that the most creative, collaborative teams use the relationships within the team to leverage their diversity.  When the team can access more than 90 per cent of the available connections between them, they develop a powerful collective intelligence.

Then, he says, “The creative team is able to see new power in complexity, new order in chaos, and where innovative foregrounds emerge from creative backgrounds.”

Meanwhile Caitlin Walker, in From Contempt To Curiosity, tells how she accidentally tracked the dynamics of meetings while doodling – and spotted the star shape in the most successful of them.

In these meetings, 75 per cent of agenda items were completed on time (compared to 50 per cent in a normal meeting), and there were great examples of people collaborating to resolve issues. She says: “Everyone contributed in an equal way and as the meeting progressed any problem or issue was put to the whole group… Every single member spoke, not only to specific people but to the group as a whole.”

Stars, Fans or Pinball: Tracking Your Team

So, how do you spot your stars? By tracking the interactions between team members: for example, in a meeting.

First, draw a circle on your page. Then, put a spot on the circle to represent each team member. Every time that person speaks, draw a line from them to the person they are speaking to. You will probably also need a system to represent speaking to the whole group: Caitlin used a line from the speaker to the centre of the circle.

The worst meetings will look link a pinball machine – a few random statements and questions dotted about before an early “game over”.

Classically-run meetings with a strong chair take a fan shape – almost all the interactions involve the chair as either speaker or the person spoken to.

But when the group as a whole is collaborating effectively, watch as the stars come out!

Now, it has to be said that keeping track of interactions in a meeting isn’t at all easy, particularly when it’s your team and a meeting you’re involved in. Start by tracking a colleague’s meeting: maybe you could do a swap? And please report your results in the comments field below.

2 thoughts on “Collaboration: the shape that says your team’s doing it”

  1. Pingback: How To Bust Boring Meetings! - X-Ray Listening

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