The Hard Science of Teamwork – Harvard Business Review

The Hard Science of Teamwork  – Harvard Business Review.

Fascinating research from Alex Pentland at MIT provides data on how to predict the productivity, performance and perhaps creativity of a team.

Luckily, if you find your team lacking in any of the below attributes, the “how” of communication can be highly trainable:

His data shows great teams:


  • Communicate frequently. In a typical project team a dozen or so communication exchanges per working hour may turn out to be optimum; but more or less than that and team performance can decline.
  • Talk and listen in equal measure, equally among members. Lower performing teams have dominant members, teams within teams, and members who talk or listen but don’t do both.
  • Engage in frequent informal communication. The best teams spend about half their time communicating outside of formal meetings or as “asides” during team meetings, and increasing opportunities for informal communication tends to increase team performance.
  • Explore for ideas and information outside the group. The best teams periodically connect with many different outside sources and bring what they learn back to the team.

Often teams fast forward to focus on what is communicated rather than how we communicate. This data (and others) suggest we need to spend more time and energy focusing on how we communicate (and learn to adjust our non-verbal communication skills) to develop the connection, collaboration and trust necessary to produce the “what” (product) that helps your business succeed.

Understanding the science behind buzz-worthy teams is the first step.

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