Amy Edmondson and Greg Williams. Greg Williams is a master negotiator. Welcome, Amy. What led you to do this TED Talk at this point?
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Amy Edmondson and Greg Williams. Greg Williams is a master negotiator. Welcome, Amy. What led you to do this TED Talk at this point? Was this a tie-in because of your book coming out? This was a tie-in from a prior book on Teaming. I had done a psychological safety TEDx Talk. I had to do something else. The Teaming is something that I care a lot about and particularly teaming to innovate and accomplish amazing things, so I was pleased to do it.
You do talk about teaming versus teams a lot and some people get confused. Do you want to share? A team is a group of people that are interdependent in achieving some shared outcome. The most important part of that definition is the group.
We come together, we swarm, we do something and off we go. It would not be a preferable way to operate. Of course, a key piece of that is how do you create the climate? How do you create an environment where people are willing to jump in and take the interpersonal risks of teaming?
You bring up a great story in your TED Talk and I had a story that I brought up in my writing about how things come about from unusual situations. You talk about the Chilean miners being rescued and how they had to come together and never doing this before. No one knows how to do it. As you alluded to, it was a stunningly hard problem. We had 33 men stuck 2, feet below some of the hardest rock in the world. In the mining industry and the copper mining industry, there was no known drilling technology capable of penetrating rock that hard and that deep fast enough to save their lives.
They had been trapped after this massive collapse. They found their way to a small refuge that had approximately enough food for two men to be kept reasonably well-fed for ten days and they were 33 of them. To make a long story short, what it took was innovating in such a way that ideas from different industries from oil recovery, from NASA, from logistics, from special forces and Navy were brought together.
People came together and generated ideas and tested them. Of course, most things failed but they learned fast and kept going and made it happen. It would not have been possible that people not been willing and able to take the interpersonal risks of learning, offering ideas, confronting mistakes and failures in a thoughtful and productive way.
It took 70 days but they were able to reach them through a small incision big enough to supply food and medicine but not big enough to get people out. They were able to make that small incision happen within seventeen days. First of all, it was a stunning discovery that they were all alive still and having to solve that really hard technical problem that they then were able to buy a little more time by being able to feed them and communicate with them.
They then had to solve a stunningly difficult problem of how do we devise a system to get them out and make a big enough hole to get them out through? How do we get people to work as if they are working that way? That is the leadership question. If you are a leader of people in any context, part of your job is to help people see why it matters that they do the work that they do. You bring up some important points not only in your TED Talk but in your book. You talk about what good does it do with talent if no one is able to speak their mind.
What can they do? Are there steps they can take? Many managers have a taken for granted mental model. How do I help people bring their great ideas and their full selves to work? How do I foster ingenuity, creativity, learning, innovation? Neuroscience research has shown us that when people are afraid, they have fewer cognitive resources available for such things as short-term memory and for creativity.
How do I have to show up to help people do that well? The volatile uncertain complex ambiguous world. It starts with their own recognition of the nature of the work and then their willingness to remind other people of the nature of the work.
Make the logical case for the voice for why their input is both needed and expected. We need to get a baseline of where we are and where we need to go. You talk about psychological safety and high performance. What does that mean?
What are the implications of that? The kind of questions that help people focus thoughtfully on a particular situation or issue. A good question helps us focus and gives us room to respond. A good question expresses curiosity and it also engenders curiosity in others.
Fear, assumptions, technology and environment and a lot of those things can either overlap you. I like how you said you have to always be asking. We have to make it feel safe for people to ask questions. They may have seen fear or technology, some of these things to some extent.
I gave an example of the hospital that brought in Formula 1 racecar pit crew to help them be more efficient. Are they going outside of their silos, but should they be going out to other companies in other areas for ideas and inspiration?
Yes, I think so. You would think Formula 1 racecar immediately suggested danger. What can we learn from a Formula 1 racecar driver that will help us promote patient safety in a hospital?
Is there a magical way to make this be a shorter time that people can learn to work together more quickly? I keep wishing I had a magic wand. There are some nuggets. The three questions are what are you trying to get done? What concerns, worries, barriers, do you see?
The third question is what do you bring? What resources, talent, skills and experiences do you bring? Those questions come in increasing vulnerability. We move up that vulnerability ladder together. When you ask people three minutes on these and then ask them what that was like, nearly everyone report that there was a sense of connection.
There was a sense of recognition. Artificial intelligence coming to move a lot of jobs. People are going to be moving around quite a bit. Where are people going to go?
I am in early conversations with people. There are ways in which these tools can help us get up to speed and help us lower risks of misunderstanding rather than the other way around. The tool of letting people speak their minds and getting that knowledge to find out where they belong is important. A lot of people probably are mismatched to their jobs, to begin with. Think about the qualitative experience of feeling engaged versus not. We want our talents and our time to be well used in service of something larger than ourselves.
Is it all innovation in teams or do you go in other directions? I teach an MBA course called Becoming a General Manager, which is a course about managing the messiness of organizational life.
You hit a certain level in your career where you get to above the functional perspective and are more required to take on the organizational perspective. The decisions are less likely to be technical decisions and more likely to be complex. In the course, we have a module on decision making under uncertainty with different points of view and high stakes. We have a module on how you use processes and incentives to increase the chances that good things happen.
I was looking at your background. You must like it there. I did have a ten-year work experience window. It was the piece of research in which I originally tested the existence of psychological safety whether it varied across groups in the same organization. If so, whether it predicted learning behavior and performance in teams, the answer to all of those questions was yes. Your work is inspiring. I loved your TED Talk. Your book is amazing and a lot of people are going to want to know how they can find out more about you.
Is there any way you can share how they could do that?
Teaming Versus Teams with Amy Edmondson and Body Language Secrets Revealed with Greg Williams
What does it really mean to be part of a team — and what are the top-priority requirements to make it a success? She took her research one step further, identifying the need to understand how a team should operate. It is a dynamic activity, not a bounded, static entity. It is largely determined by the mindset and practices of teamwork, not by the design and structures of effective teams. Edmondson Management Theorist.
The Importance of Teaming
Building the right culture in an era of fast-paced teaming, when people work on a shifting mix of projects with a shifting mix of partners, might sound challenging — if not impossible. But, in my experience, in the most innovative companies, teaming is the culture. Teaming is about identifying essential collaborators and quickly getting up to speed on what they know so you can work together to get things done. This more flexible teamwork in contrast to stable teams is on the rise in many industries because the work — be it patient care, product development, customized software, or strategic decision-making — increasingly presents complicated interdependencies that have to be managed on the fly. The time between an issue arising and when it must be resolved is shrinking fast.
Heroes of Employee Engagement: No.11 Amy C. Edmonson
Editor's note: Many managers are taught to think of teams as carefully designed, static groups of individuals who, like a baseball team or improv comedy troupe, have ample time to practice interacting successfully and efficiently. The truth is, teams are often disbanded before they have a chance to gel, as individual members are delegated to new projects—and therefore new teams—on a hectic as-needed basis. Professor Amy Edmondson maintains that managers should think in terms of "teaming"—actively building and developing teams even as a project is in process, while realizing that a team's composition may change at any given moment. Teaming, she says, is essential to organizational learning. In the following excerpt, Edmondson describes the concept of teaming and explains its importance to today's corporate environment.
The Three Pillars of a Teaming Culture
You are currently using the site but have requested a page in the site. Would you like to change to the site? Amy C. Continuous improvement, understanding complex systems, and promoting innovation are all part of the landscape of learning challenges today's companies face. Amy Edmondson shows that organizations thrive, or fail to thrive, based on how well the small groups within those organizations work. In most organizations, the work that produces value for customers is carried out by teams, and increasingly, by flexible team-like entities.