Lean on We

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    This Episode: How to use pauses to help you think more clearly, why optimizing yourself might harm your team, and why organizations must be more talent driven.

    There Is No I in Team

    There’s no I in team is not one of the most useful idioms (particularly as there is both an M and an E in team) but like many, there is an element of insight to it. Recently I’ve had the good fortune to chat to some really interesting people with an insight into how individual and team dynamics combine, including sports coaches and organizational psychologists, but before I get to their thoughts, I’d like to start with something much more fundamental. Mathematics. Don’t worry, you won’t need all the stuff you forgot at high school for this – just some basic arithmetic.

    In most unstructured, ambiguous work environments, employees work in three different ways.

    • They work on their own
    • They work asynchronously with others
    • They work synchronously with others

    Now, the interesting thing about these types of work is that they “cost” very different amounts. If you work on your own, an hour is an hour.

    Now let’s switch to mode two – that you work asynchronously with another person. Let’s say you work for 30 minutes, spend 5 minutes explaining what you did, and the second person spends 5 minutes understanding it and then works for 30 minutes building on what you did. Total time taken? 1 hour 10 minutes.

    Finally, let’s switch to mode 3. Now you are working completely together for an hour. Total time taken? 2 hours (one hour for each of you).

    Amazingly most of us don’t think this way when we are figuring out how to work. But once you DO think this way, three things become very obvious.

    1. If you are collaborating and all other things are equal, asynchronous is much more efficient than synchronous
    2. Therefore getting really good at asynchronous collaboration is time well spent
    3. synchronous collaboration is REALLY expensive, so it’s important to be REALLY great at that.

    All of which brings me to the slightly worrying point. As work gets more distributed the ties to our colleagues are loosening, and in turn this is resulting in a measurable DROP in our ability to collaborate well with others. Because we are human, we are adapting by getting better at working alone and worse at working with others. That may work ok in the short term, but in the medium term, it means teams degrade into groups of individuals, rather than high-functioning units that build on each other’s skills.

    Now, this is all fixable, but it takes effort, and effort that can be frustrating. If you have spent years optimizing yourself as a human, you may feel LESS productive as you adjust your style to help the team. In my company BillionMinds we call this tension Me vs We, and it’s something that every talented player in a team sport feels.

    I’ll return to this theme in next week’s edition, as I get into concrete skills that employees and managers should work on to get the best results at a team level. So if you haven’t already, make sure you subscribe!


    Are you really still reading this?

    If you have made it to the end of this newsletter, congratulations! But the reality is that most people don’t. There are just so many things to do these days, and just so much stuff competing for our attention.

    This leads me to my favorite new book of the summer. Writing for Busy Readers: Communicate More Effectively in the Real World by Todd Rogers and Jessica Lasky-Finkis is of a book about writing, but very specifically a book at writing with the reader in mind – something that so many of us forget to do. Making prose accessible, and easy to read is a gift you provide to the reader. To return to the arithmetic theme – 10 minutes spent simplifying your text while retaining its meaning may result in thousands of minutes saved by your audience as a whole.

    Almost all of us write at least something every day, so the book is well worth picking up. I’m very happy to say that it’s an easy read.

    The Tip – Pause for Effect

    Video Length: 2 mins 17 secs

    First off, thanks for all the great feedback on our short animated videos – we love making them! This week my animated twin looks at the positive effects of brief pauses. We spend a lot of time talking about breaks, but pauses are different, they are very brief periods you use to give your conscious mind time to “breathe”. If you have read books such as Thinking Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman – you will understand the idea that our brains do two styles of thinking, and both have value. By using the technique in the video below, you will see how to give the tortoise part of your brain time to catch up so it can give you the real value it has.

    About Us

    Thanks for Reading!

    I’m Paul and I’m the CEO and Co-Founder of BillionMinds. If you are worried about how prepared your employees are for change – change in work environments (like hybrid and remote), business strategy, or even technology changes, you should talk to us. Just reach out to me here on LinkedIn and we can get a call scheduled.

    As for this newsletter – please let me know your thoughts on it in the comments (I try to respond to everything)

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