Here’s how you build transformative teams | 3011

One of the most common questions I get asked by senior managers is “How can we find more innovative people?” I know the type they have in mind. Someone energetic and dynamic, full of ideas and able to present them powerfully. It seems like everybody these days is looking for an early version of Steve Jobs.

  1. Passion For a Problem
  2. Collaboration Skills 
  3. High Quality Interaction 
  4. Talent Isn’t Something You Hire, It’s Something You Build 

However, the reality is that teams, rather than individuals, perform today’s high-value work. This is not how it always was. According to the magazine Nature, until the 1920s, most scientific articles only had one author. However, by the 1950s, co-authorship had become commonplace, and today’s papers have four times as many authors as they did before.

You don’t need the finest individuals—you need the best teams—to address the type of complicated issues required to spur true transformation. Traditional job descriptions confuse us because of this. They frequently emphasize task-driven abilities above collaborative ones. We must alter the way we assess, hire, manage, and develop talent. Observe the following:

Concern for an issue

I previously worked with a unit manager who wasn’t giving us the results we expected. She wasn’t entirely bad. She was actually well-liked by her subordinates, colleagues, and upper management. But we decided to gradually remove her from her position since she wasn’t exhibiting anywhere close to the amount of originality needed to advance the company.

So why is it possible for someone to be so unimaginative and uninteresting in one situation while being so inventive in another? The most straightforward explanation is that she was far more interested in interior design than she was in our company. Intrinsic motivation has long been known to be a key factor in what inspires people to be creative.

The assumption that innovation is just about ideas is the biggest fallacy about it. It isn’t. Problem resolution is the focus. Hiring team members who are interested in the issues you are attempting to address is the first step in creating a transformational team. If someone truly cares about your purpose, collaborate with them to provide the solutions you need.

Skills in Collaboration

We frequently assume that high performance teams are led by a charismatic, commanding figure, yet evidence demonstrates the exact reverse. In a comprehensive study, researchers from MIT and Carnegie Mellon discovered that members of high-performing teams tend to be socially sensitive, take turns speaking, and include women.

The capacity of each team member to express their ideas without fear of retaliation or criticism, as discovered by Harvard professor Amy Edmondson through decades of research on the workplace, is essential for high-performing, creative teams. When examining what makes outstanding teams function, Google came to much the same conclusion.

In his 2007 book The No Asshole Rule, Stanford professor Robert Sutton also compiled extensive evidence that demonstrated how even one disruptive employee can ruin a work atmosphere, reduce productivity, and encourage good individuals to quit the organization. Therefore, even if a person excels on an individual basis, it is preferable to get rid of bad individuals than to allow them to undermine an organization’s performance as a whole.

Excellent Interaction

There is mounting evidence that teams’ interactions are key to their effectiveness. After 9/11, a CIA study to identify the qualities of the most successful analyst teams showed that interactions within the team, not the qualities of the individual team members or even the leadership mentoring they received, were what made the teams successful.

They discovered, more particularly, that teams that collaborate well outperform those that assign tasks to individuals and carry them out in parallel. In a different study, it was shown that teams who engaged more in person than virtually tended to develop better levels of trust and create more innovative work.

Understanding and internalizing the fact that a team’s worth comes from more than simply the sum of individual contributions and the way ideas interact with one another is essential. This is what enables ideas to develop and change into something entirely new and distinct. More than anything else, combination is the key to invention.

Talent is a skill that you build, not something you hire.

The fact is, “how do we find innovative people?” does not have an appropriate response. Talent is something you empower, not something you recruit or get via military conquest. It depends more on how people are led and encouraged than it does on their inherent abilities. David Burkus, a workplace specialist, says that “talent doesn’t make the team. The group creates the talent.” 

Effective leaders foster a feeling of shared goal and purpose among their employees. They create a psychologically secure environment not out of misguided generosity but rather to promote openness and honesty in partnership. They foster a culture of connectedness that results in sincere bonds amongst coworkers.

Leaders must realize that the issues we face today are far too complicated for us to depend solely on individual successes. Teams now perform The high-value work is now done by teams, therefore that is where our focus should be. Leaders must now do more than only command and plan their teams’ actions. We must encourage and strengthen conviction.


Greg Satell is a transformation and change specialist, renowned keynote speaker, and the author of Cascades: How to Build a Movement that Drives Transformational Change, which has achieved worldwide bestseller status. Mapping Innovation, his previous work, was chosen as one of the top business books of 2017. Greg’s website is, and you can follow him on Twitter at @DigitalTonto for additional information.

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