“The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each team member is the team.” – Phil Jackson, American professional basketball coach.
With the current forced work from home situation, organizations are now looking at offering remote working as an option even after normalcy returns. Many are adopting a hybrid model, moving away from ‘either - or’ to ‘and’ option. But how do organizations prepare employees to oscillate between the two and yet be efficient?
What is the best option now may soon come up with its own set of challenges. Remote working has given rise to a new form of living, not just working. Since team members are now working remotely, they will be required to develop their individual technical skills or core competencies and create pieces of the puzzle, yet understand the ‘big picture’ by developing skills in adjacent areas, as these pieces will have to interlock into each other to create the final product.
Over the past few years, fast-paced technological growth has forced people to adapt, where the norms have become extreme extroversion and the ability to think fast in a noisy, busy environment. But the current crisis has created a unique situation: forced introversion and silent innovation.
Again, with the hybrid model, introversion and extroversion will not remain an ‘either - or’ but become an ‘and’ behaviour, not choosing one over the other, instead adopting the best of both worlds.
It would require employees to adjust behaviours to keep up with the changing environment. Perhaps it is time for organizations to reconsider culture and practices and increase investments in behavioural and leadership development.
While we all adapt to the new normal and come up with creative ways of working, should we look at collaboration differently? Should the mode of innovation now be Integration rather than Co-creation? Inclusivity is not just about having a diverse team; it’s understanding how our environments and practices can actively support this diversity.
The definition of collaboration in the workplace may change over time from “starting together, ending together” to “starting along, ending together.”
Workplace collaboration would require employees to be self-sufficient and technically sound, as remote working will forcefully break down heavy interdependencies.
They will have to be fully equipped to come up with solutions to their problems in a creative manner, as connecting with team members or the manager in every instance may not be possible. It creates opportunities for managers to transition from being mentors to coaches, helping employees explore possibilities and encourage creative and independent thinking.
Each employee will be expected to stretch his/her thinking ability and come up with his/her solution to a problem or an independent model of innovation. After this, collaboration will come into play, where perhaps not just one best idea, solution or plan is picked but a combination of what is offered can be used to create a hybrid solution or a unique model – integration rather than co-creation. It does not restrict to ‘either-or’ but considers ‘and’ to create an integrative model or solution. It would ensure that the best ideas are brought to the table without any biases of group thinking. Developing a mindset of ‘and’ will help team members widen their options and build creative thinking capabilities. Adopting this form of innovation or problem-solving approach will give them the opportunity to move through all areas of thinking: informative, critical and creative.
Each team member will have an equal opportunity to contribute to the design of the solution or innovation, thus inculcating a feeling of inclusion. We also aim to promote, embrace and celebrate diversity in teams so that companies can benefit from the incredible talent their individuals possess. The acceptance of ‘and’ thinking would also bring about a shift in behaviors like higher acceptance, tolerance and openness to view others’ ideas objectively, which would result in a positive impact on the company culture.
Encouraging integrative models and solutions will allow both independence and interdependence to thrive. Balancing team development and individual development would help move the organization towards a high-performance culture. Too much of one would weaken the other; hence, leaders should help facilitate and maintain this balance – shifting ‘either-or’ to ‘and’ development.
Peter Drucker’s quote “The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence; it is to act with yesterday’s logic.”, holds true in the current COVID-19 situation, too.
So, are organizations today, encouraging inclusive collaboration that would help all individuals and not just a handful to grow? Is the current remote-working situation a good time to start, as individual capabilities will be stretched and developed and collaboration opportunities would be limited, yet valuable? Now may be a good time to introducing integrative thinking– the ‘and’ thinking– for coming up with the best possible solution or most creative product for organizations to thrive in the current crisis as well as for vertical development of team members.