Kathryn Foster17 December 2019

How amazing team performance amplifies innovation

How good is when you join a team that just seems to have it all going on…?! SO GOOD is the answer if you were unsure! Tell-tale signs of working in a high performing team include: people being open to giving and receiving feedback, sharing opinions freely and not being precious about being challenged. They also simply just do what they say they will. If you can’t put your hand on your heart and say you are working within a high performing team now – never fear – that can be developed with some conscious changes in team practice. And you might be wondering what all this has to do with innovation? Well, high performing teams are more likely to produce creative ideas which is why it is definitely worth investing your time in curating one.

You may not be surprised to hear that in addition to being more likely to generate innovative ideas, high performing teams are likely to work more effectively and efficiently and therefore achieve and exceed required outcomes. This is largely because people within these teams feel engaged, empowered and supported which goes a long way to maximising an individual’s performance.

As a new member at Inventium I have found myself in the enviable position of joining what the research defines as a high performing team. There is amazing equity of voice so that everyone is encouraged to contribute and all ideas are heard. There is also excellent accountability – people do what they say will and don’t get their nose out of joint when asked. I’d encourage you to think about how often these behaviours are happening in your team, and what is getting in the way if the answer is ‘not very often’.

Leading Teams is an organisation committed to developing high-performance teams. They have worked extensively with AFL clubs over the past decade and the Geelong Cats flag their involvement with Leading Teams as a contributing factor in their three most recent premierships. One element of their performance improvement program is a practice where every player receives feedback from every other player on what they are doing well and what they could be doing better. Everyone agrees to take it on board and use it to enhance their performance which is what being in a high performing team is all about – contributing to each other’s success. Amazing things can happen when you leave ego at the door and take accountability for the team’s outcomes, including the generation of better ideas.

The good news is, high performing teams don’t just happen by accident – so if you feel like your team might have a little way to go, here is some food for thought. Research from the world of organisational psychology suggests that there are a few common characteristics in high performing teams. Firstly, they create agreed behaviours that are set by the team and then upheld by all members. This means that when someone acts outside of the behaviours their teammates call them on it. This doesn’t need to be a big deal, a simple: “hey, I’m not sure that’s the way we agreed we will work with each other” will suffice.

Communication is also another important element of high performing teams – individuals in these teams are open and honest which each other and willing to deliver difficult messages, all for the benefit of the team. Finally, high performing teams bring a diverse set of skills and experiences so they can contribute from different perspectives when generating solutions to the problems they face. All of this means they function super effectively and are more likely to achieve and exceed required outcomes and produce more innovative ideas.

So – what does all this mean for you? If you care about innovation and work performance more generally, then it is important that you consider how close to high performing your team is. Make the time to do these three things:

  1. Put the topic on the table and have some real conversations about the way the team is functioning and what can be done to improve it. You could use this article to kick-start the conversation!
  2. Make sure your team has a set of agreed behaviours and permission to hold each other to account. This clears the way for the ideas to flow and a culture of innovation to flourish.
  3. Ensure everyone gets a say and has some skin in the game so that they feel as engaged and empowered as possible.

Have a great rest of your week,