Friday, February 15, 2019

How Does Team Size Affect Innovation?

Source: Wikimedia Commons
Lingfei Wu, Dashun Wang & James Evans have published a paper in Nature titled, "Large teams develop and small teams disrupt science and technology."   The scholars assembled a dataset of more than 65 million papers, patents, and software projects from 1954-2014.  They discovered that larger research teams tended to develop incremental improvements, while small teams conceived disruptive innovations.   

The findings remind me of Steve Jobs' preference for small teams.  Ken Segall, formerly an advertisting agency creative director, worked with Jobs for many years.  He described Jobs' philosophy on super-smart, small teams in an article for Fast Company several years ago:

Start with small groups of smart people–and keep them small. Every time the body count goes higher, you’re simply inviting complexity to take a seat at the table... The idea is pretty basic: Everyone in the room should be there for a reason. There’s no such thing as a “mercy invitation.” Either you’re critical to the meeting or you’re not. It’s nothing personal, just business.

Steve Jobs actively resisted any behavior he believed representative of the way big companies think–even though Apple had been a big company for many years. He knew that small groups composed of the smartest and most creative people had propelled Apple to its amazing success, and he had no intention of ever changing that. When he called a meeting or reported to a meeting, his expectation was that everyone in the room would be an essential participant. Spectators were not welcome.

For more on the Wu, Wang, and Evans study, check out this interview with two of the authors:

Thursday, February 14, 2019

What Should You Ask Your Job Interviewer?

Source: Pixabay
Adunola Adeshola has written an interesting article for Forbes about the types of interview questions that can help you stand out as a job applicant.  She points out that many candidates spend a great deal of time preparing answers to the questions that their interviewer may ask.  However, they often do not spend a sufficient amount of time coming up with distinctive and thoughtful questions to pose during the interview.  Joseph offers three suggested questions:

1. Ideally, if offered this role, what are the biggest priorities you’d like me to tackle immediately in my first 90 days?

2. I noticed that you all are big on collaboration and failing fast [or other aspects of the company’s culture], what other qualities are you looking for in the new hire that will make fitting in with the team a no brainer?

3. Is there anything that concerns you about my background being fit for this role?

The first question enables you to picture yourself in the role.  What will the work be like?   How much autonomy and responsibility will I have?  What are the expectations for me, and what will I need to deliver on during the early part of my tenure?  It helps the applicant determine whether they will be engaged and enthused, as well as to identify whether they can succeed in this role.  On the other hand, it also shows the interviewer that you are forward-thinking and doing your best to prepare to be successful in this new role.   The second question enables in the candidate to make a strong case for why they fit culturally with this organization, or perhaps to discover ways in which he or she might not be a good fit.  Finally, the last question is risky if you are not prepared to address possible shortcomings in your candidacy.  On the other hand, if you are prepared, it enables the applicant to discuss some possible worries that are likely to be on the mind of interviewers.  

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

How Do You Compare Very Similar Options?

Source:  JBSA
You face a tough decision, and there appear to be two very similar options.  How do you choose?  University of Texas Professor Art Markman discusses this topic in an article for Fast Company this week.  He describes research that he has conducted about alignable vs. nonalignable differences.  He explains:

Research I did early in my career found that there are two kinds of differences that emerge from comparisons. Some differences are directly related to what a pair of options have in common. For example, if you are deciding between two apartments, one might be on a higher floor in the building than the other. These differences are called alignable differences, because they relate to how the information about the options is placed in correspondence.  Some differences are unrelated to what the options have in common. For example, one apartment might have a breakfast nook, while the other does not. These differences are called nonalignable differences.

When we compare options, we often focus intently on the alignable differences.  If there are few of these distinctions, we conclude that the alternatives are quite similar.   We struggle to decide.  However, we need to make sure that we are also examining the nonalignable differences.  These might be quite important, and they ought to be considered carefully.  Markman suggests stopping the comparison and contrast for a moment.  Use your imagination for a bit.  Try to imagine what it will be like to live with a particular option, and that may help you understand the attributes that you care about a great deal.  Then do the same thing with the other alternatives.  As you examine each option in this imaginative way, you might come to understand that some of these nonalignable differences matter a great deal more than others.  

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

How Does Narcissism Affect Team Performance?

Source: Wikipedia
Emily Grijalva, Timothy D. Maynes, Katie L. Badura, and Steven W. Whiting have published a new research article titled, "Examining the “I” in team: A longitudinal investigation of the influence of team narcissism composition on team outcomes in the NBA."  Narcissism in the NBA?  I'm shocked!  LeBron James?  Kevin Durant?  These folks are narcissistic? Come on! Actually, the research is terrific, because they collected detailed information about game-level performance. What did they find? The authors report that, "Teams with higher mean and maximum levels of narcissism as well as higher narcissism members in core roles (i.e., central and influential roles) had poorer coordination and in turn performance than teams with lower levels."  That finding should not surprise us at all.  

Perhaps even more interestingly, they looked at how narcissim related to performance over time.  They found that coordination improved over time for teams with low levels of narcissism.   You get to know one another better, understand each other's strengths and roles, and your collaboration is enhanced. On the other hand, teams with high narcissism did not experience similar types of improvement in coordination among the players.    Narcissism, then, appears to get in the way of the type of collaboration, information sharing, and integrated action that high performing teams must exhibit.   

Thursday, February 07, 2019

Brainstorming with Green, Yellow, and Blue Questions

Bob Tiede has published a guest post by me on his excellent Leading with Questions blog.  The short piece focuses on how you can sift through your green, yellow, and blue ideas during a brainstorming session, and why that's helpful as you move from ideation to prototyping. The green/yellow/blue technique comes from Emily Ma of Alphabet.