Virtual Teams And The Bioteaming Approach - A Video Interview With Ken Thompson - Part 1
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.
Ken Thompson - Photo credit: Robin Good
One of the worst drawbacks of virtual teams is perhaps its main characteristic. The lack of a physical environment puts at play so many human variables that a distributed team results to be more sensitive to improper uses of collaboration technologies.
Few simple improvements and a higher degree of awareness in the way your team interacts and shares knowledge, really make a considerable difference on how your virtual team can be effective when trying to reach a specific goal.
Here all the first part of this video interview:
(See Part 2 here)
Intro by Daniele Bazzano
What Are Bioteams?
I'm Ken Thompson, I live in Belfast and I study bioteams.
What is bioteams all about?
Bioteams is all about how we can learn from nature's teams in terms of our organizational teams and our networks.
Mostly we run our teams a bit like the military, command and control, but the surprising thing is nature's teams don't operate like that. They operate in a totally different module, a more natural model, and I argue a more appropriate model for the kind of teams, social networks and virtual groups we're dealing with today.
Why Bioteams Are Different
- The first thing that's really interesting is: if you imagine a flock of geese migrating, everybody knows that the lead goose migrates to the back of the V.
Most people think that's because the lead goose is tired: not the only reason. Some new research suggests another reason is that the lead goose has got lost, because when a flock of geese are migrating, each goose only knows part of the migration route, and then whenever they don't know the route they move the back.
I call that collective leadership.
The right leader at the right time for the right task, it's not a leaderless team. It's a team of many leaders, each leading differently, and that's very different from our command and control idea of a single leader team.
- The second big difference is that nature's teams use lots of little messages, basically threats or opportunities, and that enables you to coordinate very quickly. Human teams tend to use lots of long complex messages, so I argue that almost all teams should have a messaging instinct, but most teams have got a documenting instinct that means they can't move fast enough.
Obstacles in Organizations
What are the main obstacles that you come across when you try to introduce this culture into an organization?
The biggest thing is most people think there's only one way of running teams. It's almost like Moses had how to run teams written on the tablets he brought down from the mountain.
One of the things I have to do first of all is to say: "look, the whole idea of teams and how you run them comes from the army". And it's basically command and control for getting people to do things they didn't really want to do.
Putting them in arms way, climbing out of a trench and say:
"that's only one of many ways to run teams. It's not God-given, it's not the only way, and let's explore some different ways we can run teams."
Let's look at a real example, and an idea a team can apply to many things today.
Most teams are non-traditional. For example a social group or a group of music fans is a team, or a group of people coming to an event is a team, because they don't just want to be talked to, they want to be participating.
One of the tricks is thinking of the whole group with everybody is a potential leader. And within it, at certain times, you want different people leading the group. is thinking of the whole group as everybody is a potential leader. And within, at certain times, you want different people leading the group.
For example, with music fans: if a band is trying to engage with its fans, sometimes the best way to do that is not to engage with all of the fans equally, but to pick some fans out who are absolutely passionate about your band, and treat them as leaders. And if you motivate them correctly, they'll engage with the rest of the community on your behalf.
One of the big things is distributing leadership over the whole team as you need to.
Learn More About Bioteaming And Best Practices For High-Performance Teams
- Bioteams - High Performance Teams Based on Nature's Most Successful Designs
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.
- Virtual Teams Doorway To Effective Collaboration
Bioteaming is indeed a fascinating new research area attempting to bridge science findings into the operational configuration and setup of new emerging networked virtual business teams in ways that are both practical and enhanced by a more well-reasoned integration of cutting-edge collaboration technologies.
- Virtual Teams Roadmap To High-Performance Collaboration: The Bioteaming Manifesto
Today's virtual business teams don't appear to be able to fully leverage the much touted opportunities offered by always-on interconnectedness, easy access to unlimited information sources and real-time communication and collaboration tools.
- Small Team Collaboration: Seven Key Beliefs To Work As A Great Team
Generally, high performance collaboration teams have very strong motivation for what they do and for the end result that their work produces. They deeply share a common set of beliefs and support each other under all circumstances.
- Virtual Teams: Best Practices When Communicating Electronically
Ken Thompson, bioteaming expert and author of an interesting Manifesto on this matter, explains in simple words the pros and cons of the three most popular communication modes (one-on-one, one-to-some, and one-to-many) utilized inside virtual teams.
Originally shot and recorded by Robin Good for MasterNewMedia and first published on October 23rd 2008 as "Virtual Teams And The Bioteaming Approach - A Video Interview With Ken Thompson - Part 1"
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:
- Bioteams: High Performance Teams Based on Nature's Best Designs
- The Networked Enterprise: Competing for the future through Virtual Enterprise Networks
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.
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