The Evolution of Teamwork in Today’s Complex World

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The Evolution of Teamwork in Today’s Complex World

Exploring New Ways to Build Teams as an Adaptive Leader

In today’s constantly changing business environment, organizations need adaptive leaders who can make quick decisions and adjustments when their team, business, or even industry calls for it. Understanding the big picture, like paying attention to what is shifting in your industry or beyond, is key to facilitating innovation. This notion further translates to teamwork and influences how you interact with and group people together.

With access to technology enabling communication like we’ve never experienced before, gone are the days of insular innovation and companies operating as islands. These advances in technology have enhanced our connectedness, provided greater access to information, and also enabled greater collaboration across previously impenetrable boundaries. As a result, the concept of teamwork as we’ve known it has evolved tremendously to keep up with the pace and demands of today’s world.

In their book, Building the Future: Big Teaming for Audacious Innovation, Amy Edmondson and Susan Salter Reynolds explain that innovation is no longer coming up with a new product, but rather it is building a future, and one that is not measured by pieces. Their idea of “big teaming” seeks to bring people together across disciplinary and industry boundaries to create a “new order of things.”

The concept of big teaming promotes breaking down silos and cutting across traditional boundaries. But beyond just crossing interdisciplinary lines across an organization, it promotes actually crossing cultural lines to collaborate, innovate, and problem solve. One example to consider would be the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, as Edmondson and Reynolds highlight. To address this unprecedented issue, government, healthcare, university, and nonprofit organizations needed to work together in ways that they never had before. However, interaction and teamwork of this magnitude was necessary to deal with the crisis.

In a very different situation, big teaming was used by the CEO of FedEx to innovate delivery systems, which required technological and transportation innovation, among other components. By thinking across industries, FedEx was able to emerge as a business unlike anything that had been previously created.

Edmondson and Reynolds consider five areas that are critical parts of teaming across cultures, but can present challenges in their differences:

  1. information technology
  2. real estate development
  3. city government
  4. architecture and construction
  5. the modern corporation

At the very center of this focus on innovation through expanding reach, however, still remains the idea of teamwork. Gathering what may appear to be disparate groups of people together is all toward the purpose of building a better, more effective and innovative team.

One of the ways organizations today can take advantage of this new view of teamwork is by not just hiring individuals, but hiring or collaborating with teams already in existence. Working with groups that already have needed skills, creative minds, and good interpersonal relationships can not only bring proven resources to a team, but can also welcome new ideas and processes that may spur a company toward new innovations. While this method may seem unfamiliar, exploring this new approach can be very worthwhile and offer new solutions to problems you may have not considered before.

As an adaptive leader, being open to new methods of teamwork and team building is critical. As your team, company, or industry change, finding ways to strengthen your organizational structure, foster innovation, and embracing a culture that relies heavily on teamwork will be critical to future success.



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