A virtual team is only as good as the way it operates. In the second part of this video interview, Ken Thompson, team collaboration expert, reasons about the difficulties people encounter when choosing to work in a distributed workgroup and explains further how following the behavior of nature's own biological teams can help your own collaboration workgroup significantly increase its performance.
Ken Thompson - Photo credit: Robin Good
How do you tell if your team is going to succeed? How can you establish mutual trust and create sincere relationships with your team members? No matter how cool or advanced the collaboration technology used what makes a huge difference is how your team manages and inter-communicates during its day-to-day activities.
There are two key approaches every virtual team wanting to operate bioteaming principles should follow:
To achieve specific goals, it is a wrong move to count on just one leader, to think there's only a person who can lead the team to victory. Every member should be put in the situation to contribute to the success of her own group. If your favorite soccer team only trusted his captain to score points, would it be a winning team?
The other key approach is tit for tat. Tit for tat consists in creating a system of mutual trust among your members. If a member of your group fails at his job, you will explain clearly why she failed and where, and then you will forgive. The benefits of this way to collaborate with people is that you make your teammates never experience a loss of trust, which could ultimately end up with your team starting to work more superficially.
Here, the second part of this video interview :
(See Part 1 here)
Intro by Daniele Bazzano
One of the things I do is to try and get people thinking differently about teams without even mentioning bioteams.
Think of your favorite soccer team, Manchester United, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Arsenal or somebody else, and just imagine that team wants to play...
Just imagine if your favorite football team played the way your team in work play, your team in the organization, how would they be differently?
And when I talk to people about this they laugh and somebody says:
""well, everybody can only pass the ball to the captain, and only the center forward is the only one in the pitch who can score."
And I say: "if your team played like that would they be top of the league or bottom of the league?" And they all laugh cause they know the team is not going to be as good.
And then I say: "well let's look at it in another way."
Let's take your work team and say:
"if my work team took some of the rules out of my favorite soccer team. If they played the way Roma play, how would my work team be different? And then would they be a better work team or a worse work team?"
When I do this with people, they start to identify things that actually are the principles of bioteaming. They actually self-identify these principles because I believe they're natural principles, and then we can start developing the theory if we base on some real experience.
When somebody approaches you on the Internet how can you really check whether they're going to be good for you?
One of the biological principles that is very interesting is a principle called tit for tat and basically tit for tat is nature's most effective way to collaborate. And tit for tat says: if you deal fairly with me, I would deal the same way back with you.
However if you do something that I'm not happy with, then I will instantly do something back for you to indicate that I'm not happy but then I will forgive and we'll carry on.
So tit for tat is immensely valuable in dealing with someone over the Internet.
For example: you ask them to do something for you and they don't do it. The nice approach might be just to forget about it. However the tit-for-tat approach is you say:
"look, I'm not happy with the quality of that work. You need to do that again. Unless you sort that out I don't think we're going to be at a work together."
And then when they do sort that out, you forgive. That's the most important thing about tit for tat. And so I use tit-for-tat extensively trying people out. I do something for them, they do something for me. And we build it up and then you get in a position where you can actually trust them on bigger things.
And we don't have to invent it from scratch, nature has invented it and it evolved for us, and that's highly effective. So I would just ask you to challenge the way you think about your team and your groups, and maybe there's a totally different way to do it.
Using the principles of bioteaming, command-and-control leadership gives way to connect-and-collaborate, where every member of an organizational team is a "leader." In nature and in bioteams, leaders don't give commands, they transmit information, trusting the team members' competencies and gaining accountability through transparency. True team leadership is about cooperation, not control. It's about acting on opportunities, and letting others lead the leader when they know best about getting stuff done.
A virtual team is only as good as the way it operates. No matter how cool or advanced the collaboration technology used what makes a huge difference is how your team approaches the actual day-to-day team operations. Ken Thompson, team collaboration expert, explains in this video interview with Robin Good, how following the behavior of nature's own biological teams can help your own workgroup significantly increase its performance.
Understanding that having voice communications and making calls on the net is not the same as in the physical world, may appear unnatural at first, but it is of critical importance if you want to start positive relationship and be accepted as true digital citizen by your fellow mates.
To be successful, virtual, networked business teams need a strategic framework in which to operate. They also need good planning and in-depth project analysis, effective and accessible technologies, constant coaching, systematic fine-tuning, feedback processes and the full understanding that their success cannot be determined by a pre-designated set of communication technologies by itself.
With the explosion in social software and the recognition that these types of systems need to reach critical mass to survive and prosper it is amazing that so few people seem to be applying the well-established philosophical principles of living systems (autopoiesis) to design for sustainability.
Originally shot and recorded by Robin Good for MasterNewMedia and first published on October 24th 2008 as "Virtual Teams And The Bioteaming Approach - A Video Interview With Ken Thompson - Part 2"
About the author
Ken Thompson is an expert practitioner in the area of bioteaming, swarming, virtual enterprise networks, virtual professional communities and virtual teams, and has published two landmark books:
Ken is also founder of an exciting European technology company Swarmteams which provides unique patent-pending bioteaming technologies for all shapes and sizes of groups, social networks, business clusters, virtual / mobile communities and enterprises. Swarmteams enables groups to be more responsive and agile by fully integrating their mobile phones and the web with bioteam working techniques. The latest Swarmteams implementation is SwarmTribes which helps musicians and bands form a unique collaboration with their fans for mutual benefit.