2 Proven Behaviors That Make Dumb Teams Smart
Team intelligence, under the right conditions, exceeds the intelligence of individual team members.
Many teams are dumber than their individual members. Corporate teams may be the dumbest of all.
5 questions to determine if you’re on a dumb team:
If you answer, “I can’t remember,” to any of the following questions, you’re on a dumb team. It doesn’t matter that individual members are talented and smart.
- When was the last time someone disagreed with the leader? Dominant team members make teams dumb.
- When was the last time responses felt unscripted and spontaneous? New ideas break from the script.
- When was the last time team members aggressively debated conflicting suggestions? Respectful conflict and constructive dissent spark innovation.
- When was the last time a teammate asked how another member felt? Self-protection blocks connection. Disconnection makes teams dumb.
- When was the last time you explored a “crazy” idea? You don’t think new ideas fit the mold. Do you?
A team gets dumber:
I recall feeling belittled by a skillful backstabber in a meeting. Her behavior was accepted. Back then, I didn’t have the insight or self-confidence to withstand the attack. I learned the team wasn’t safe. The team grew dumber because I stopped speaking up.
Teams get dumber when honesty, transparency, candor, and constructive dissent are punished.
From dumb to smart:
Research shows it’s easier to build smart teams than you think.
#1. Create balanced participation. Expect everyone to participate with the same frequency and duration, on average. Eliminate monologues. Keep a checklist of everyone’s participation.
The longer one person speaks, the dumber teams become.
#2. Practice social sensitivity. Connection makes teams smarter. Explore, don’t ignore emotion. “Professional” teams are dumb. Teams with more women tend to be smarter than teams with more men.
Smart teams may not be soft, but they are safe.
(Research: SCIENCE AAAS)
Have you been on a smart team? What made it smart?
*I first read about smart teams in Charles Duhigg’s book, “Smarter Faster Better.”
Amazingly described dumb team. This line is very impressive ” Teams get dumber when honesty, transparency, candor, and constructive dissent are punished.” It is the truth in any kind of meeting. I agree to your concept of social sensitivity. It is important for people to understand the context and its norms. I also feel that “Individual sensitivity” is equally important. People should learn to respect individual.
Commitment from each member of the team is utmost needed. And it takes time and culture plays deciding role. Some of the meetings I have attended, I was impressed. The reasons were- time was adhered, to the point agenda were discussed and duration was around 30-45 minutes.
I would add some points to make dumb team effective. Grandstanding should be avoided. This creates much influence and dissenters prefer to hold their opinions.
Thanks Dr. Gupta. Great seeing your comment here today. Love the idea that meetings don’t have to be one hour long.
Behaviors that invite others to be silent seem to make teams dumb. When you think about it, it’s so obvious, but typically neglected.
Thank you for this post, Dan. I agree that these behaviors make a team dysfunctional, but not dumb. If you were to ask members of this hypothetical team why they don’t share new or “crazy” ideas, or to be transparent about their own differing feelings, they’ll probably respond that it’s out of fear of upsetting the leader (their boss) and then being job targeted. So if they’re financially dependent on the job that keeps them on that team, silence and dysfunction will prevail. And in that situation, self-preservation is probably good for the individual(s) but bad for the team…leaving you without a team, but rather a collection of highly skilled & capable people sharing the same space. Maybe the post should be entitled, “2 Proven Behaviors that Make Dumb LEADERS of Teams Smart”! I appreciate you and happy Friday 🙂
Thanks Beth. Of all the things leaders do, culture development is most important. I’m generally not a fan of top down leadership, but as you indicate, the influence of leaders on the environment can’t be minimized.
I’ll add that one member, leader or not, can create a negative team environment. All it takes is the silence of everyone else for negative environments to prevail. Thanks for jumping in on this one!
Wow! This is a great post Dan.
All the players tend to make it work/smart, the minute you chose not to participate you become a crack in the cog of the wheel so to speak. “Dumb” as you mention is loaded pointing at all or sum tends to negate the team aspect. Of course we can help correct dumb too!
Most leaders fail to realize without their team they don’t have a position or job. In my opinion majority of the time leaders lead conversations because of fear or intimidation. I believe a confident leader should never be intimidated or fearful of a team member that can make them look great as a whole if they use their strengths in the right way.
I refer to this concept as Anti-synergy. Synergy is when the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, ie. the team is smarter than any of the individuals. Anti-synergy is when we are all individually intelligent and capable, and collectively stupid and inept. (Corporate teams and Politicians.)
Unfortunately, I’ve see this a lot, and I think I have been on more dumb teams than smart ones.
Now that I think about it, that’s actually a pretty scathing indictment of my own behavior… I did nothing about it at the time.
Patrick Lencioni’s book The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team outlines the reasons, it starts with trust.
The smart teams I’ve been on have been on have had a great level of trust. We each know what the others are good at, and don’t feel bad about challenging each other.
Well said Joel, I have experienced much of what you refer too! The key is doing something compared to nothing!
Great post Dan! I love the 5 questions to determine if you are on a dumb team!