Teaming: How Organizations Learn, Innovate, and Compete in the Knowledge Economy – Amy C. Edmondson Book Summary

Teaming: How Organizations Learn, Innovate, and Compete in the Knowledge Economy – Amy C. Edmondson | Free Book Summary

Teaming: How Organizations Learn, Innovate, and Compete in the Knowledge Economy – Amy C. Edmondson

This book focuses on how organizations learn and innovate in the knowledge economy and provides an in-depth look at how teams work, how they learn, and how they can be more effective.

The book covers topics such as team formation, team dynamics, team-based problem solving, and team-based decision making. It also provides guidance on how to develop high-performing teams and how to create an environment in which teams can be most successful.

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Managing conflict

To moderate conflict, leaders should identify the nature of the conflict, model good communication, identify shared goals, and encourage difficult conversations. Due to the challenges of teaming, particular attention should be paid to the role of leadership. The mindset and practices of organizing to learn enable both teaming and learning.

Successfully implementing an organizing-to-learn mindset involves four actions: framing for learning, making it psychologically safe, learning to learn from failure, and spanning occupational and cultural boundaries.

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The Power of Framing

Frames are interpretations that individuals rely on to sense and understand their environment. Most of the time, framing occurs automatically. Reframing is a powerful leadership tool for shifting behaviors and enrolling people in change. How people working in an organization, especially those in leadership positions, frame a project can determine the difference between success and failure.

Successfully framing a new initiative that calls for both teaming and learning is about roles and goals: the leader’s role, team members’ roles, and the teaming effort’s goal or purpose. In framing their role, leaders must explicitly communicate their interdependence and express both their own fallibility and the need for collaboration.

Defining roles

In defining team members’ roles, leaders need to emphasize that they have picked skilled people who are vital to the success of the project. To inspire and unite team members, leaders must communicate a clear and compelling purpose. Establishing a learning frame involves four iterative steps: enrollment, preparation, trial, and reflection.

Better results

To achieve better teaming or learning results, experiment with the following individual tactics: Tell yourself that the project presents an exciting opportunity; see yourself as critical to a successful outcome; tell yourself that others are important to a successful outcome; and communicate with others as if the preceding three points are true.

Psychological safety: Making It Safe to Team

Psychological safety describes individuals’ perceptions regarding the consequences of interpersonal risks in their work environment. Four specific image risks that people face at work are being seen as ignorant, incompetent, negative, or disruptive. In psychologically safe environments, characterized by both trust and respect, people believe that if they make a mistake or ask for help, others will not penalize them.

Because psychological safety encourages self-expression and productive discussion, it’s essential to teaming and organizational learning. Psychological safety is not about being nice or about lowering performance standards. Instead, psychological safety allows groups to set high goals and work toward them through collaboration and collective learning.

Benefits of psychological safety

Research reveals seven specific benefits provided by psychological safety: it encourages speaking up, enables clarity of thought, supports productive conflict, mitigates failure, promotes innovation, moderates the relationship between goals and performance, and increases employee accountability.

Hierarchy and the fear it creates negatively affect psychological safety.

Lower-status team members generally feel less safe than higher-status members. Leaders play crucial roles in promoting a psychologically safe organization. But psychological safety cannot be simply authorized or mandated. Instead, it requires specific leadership actions.

Psychological safety and the role of leaders

To cultivate a psychologically safe environment, leaders should be accessible and approachable, acknowledge the limits of current knowledge, be willing to display fallibility, invite participation, refrain from penalizing failure, use direct language, set boundaries, and hold people accountable.

The emphasis should be on the group’s tasks, how they’re changing, and what’s needed to do them well. This makes the need for psychological safety a conclusion that people can discover for themselves.

Failing better to succeed faster

When bringing together people with different perspectives and skills, failure is inevitable because of both technical and interpersonal challenges. Failures provide valuable information that allows organizations to be more productive, innovative, and successful. But due to strong psychological and social reactions to failing, most of us see failure as unacceptable.

Logically, we can see that many failures in organizations cannot be prevented, but emotionally, it’s hard to separate failure from blame. This leads to the types of punitive reactions that cause many failures to go unreported or misdiagnosed.

Teaming Across Boundaries

People teaming in today’s workplaces are unlikely to be homogenous in beliefs, attitudes, or opinions. When not managed consciously and carefully, these differences can inhibit collaboration. The term boundaries refers to both visible and invisible divisions between people, including gender, occupation, or nationality.

Boundaries exist based on the taken-for-granted assumptions and diverse mindsets that people hold in different groups.

Communication is Key

Establishing a superordinate goal, fostering curiosity, and providing process guidelines are important leadership actions for promoting good communication across boundaries.

To overcome geographic boundaries, group members should make periodic visits to other sites, pay close attention to unique local knowledge, and contribute to knowledge repositories and exchanges.

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