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February 3, 2014

Team Up for Innovation

Posted by Sanjay Dalwani (View Profile | View All Posts) at 9:03 AM

Adam Grant Discusses Give and Take [Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OHgIQR1zUq4]

Are you a team player? Most of us would like to think we are. That's good news because of the way organizations are assessing the very nature of success.

The coolest viewpoint on this topic is articulated by the Wharton management professor Adam Grant . He says that success used to commonly be a collection of individual achievement. But that's going to change as companies increasingly look at how your accomplishments affect your colleagues. It seems we're all in this together after all! For example, ask yourself what kind of impact you will have simply beyond your core job description. Grant challenges us to think about three types of interactions we have with teammates, The way you interact with colleagues can often say as much about you as does your training, experience, and education.

For starters, there's the "taker." A taker tends to think about getting as much out of teammates as possible. In a bygone era, takers could be tolerated because there was enough work that could be performed in a non-collaborative manner. But today, in the era of innovation, teamwork is essential to generating good ideas. Takers can easily suck the oxygen out of a brainstorming session.

A "matcher," on the other hand, enjoys a sort of give and take in the workplace. There's nothing wrong with being a matcher, especially if you're a younger employee who expects to receive guidance, mentoring, and even technical knowledge. You can present you millennial affinity for doing things and in return the more experienced members of your organization can impart their wisdom. There's nothing quite like offering a different viewpoint on things in return for the knowledge that comes with industry expertise.

Finally, there's the "giver," who doles out help and expects nothing in return. If you ever find a colleague who is willing to impart his professional knowledge and expects nothing in return, then that makes for a rewarding mentorship. What's important about these distinctions is the way an organization attempts to balance them. If a company wants to build a culture of giving among its teams, then sometimes it thinks it must hire people en masse who have that characteristic. But it's more effective to concentrate on the takers, says Grant. By simply weeding out a few takers - people who singlehandedly focus on their individual results - you can more easily shift the culture of the organization to be more giving. That's vital if you're embarking on an innovation journey and the offering up of new ideas and inventions are tantamount to that process.

Finding the right balance in an organization is important because we're always trying to do more with less. I'm not talking cutbacks; I'm talking about doing this in a way that's as smart and relevant as possible. "Right now there is a disconnect between knowledge and strategy," says Grant's Wharton colleague, Martin Ihrig. "Everyone knows there is competitive advantage in deeply understanding their knowledge, but very few decision makers know how to strategically harness it."

So the next time a colleague talks about amassing knowledge, take a step back and instead propose that you utilize the knowledge you need instead of overloading your organization. Better still is when that colleague is willing to generate ideas and share insights without demanding you necessarily return information and insights on demand. In a culture where teamwork prevails, you will eventually come to a point when you are member of the team delivering innovation.

You would never want to be doing so with the expectation that your teammates match that insight then and there. Innovation is a process where the more you give, the more your teammates will return in their own way and timeframe.

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