Hello Leader,

Have you found that even when you are talking with a group of exceedingly smart people the conversation can be exceedingly stupid?

Market observers like to say that as January goes so goes the year (with above 80% accuracy over the last 100 years.) Large institutions place their bets and shape key trends for the year. Our focus here is on wise leadership and transformative strategy and not on the financial markets, but we too try to decipher the archetypal character and the pattern of the year. If January tells a story of the year, the theme for 2011 may be: Riptides of Opportunity. It sounds like an oxymoron but the pattern implies that what presents itself as dangerous and a threat for some is the current of opportunity for others. There are three things about riptides:

  1. A riptide can surprise you without warning. Think surprising opportunities.
  2. A riptide can build momentum under the surface and be invisible. Think greater scale, scope and possibility.
  3. You don't fight a riptide; you go with the flow and use the current's own energy. In the case of opportunity riptide you need not escape it by swimming parallel to shore prematurely. Think adaptive, agile and counterintuitive approach.

In this key you will discover why 76% of team meetings are suboptimal and ineffective and what you can do to dramatically improve your meetings.

Listen to our podcast about redefining work and unleashing the power of your team. Please forward this KEY to friends, family and associates.


Aviv Shahar

Are You Confusing Your Team?

Have you noticed how a group of highly capable individuals working together as a team often produce suboptimal results? We probably all have been in these situations. They include business meetings where the conversation wanders in circles, goes off topic and fails to find practical resolutions.

If you are a team leader, you need to ask: Am I confusing my team? Framing conversations is one of the most important things you do as a leader. In my work I am asked to help teams of bright executives develop strategy, accelerate organizational transformation and collaboration, and deliver breakthrough results. How do we help turn suboptimal engagements into breakthroughs? What's the game changer? The key is framing conversations and choreographing the process. That's how the collective intelligence and collaborative ROI is found. When the results are not larger but smaller than the sum of the individual parts, the process is out of whack.

Are You Creating Your Own Disaster?
Picture this: five brilliant managers are sitting around the table. Each one of them has an IQ of 200 or higher. They are tasked to come up with a new strategy that will help the organization step up to a bigger game and create a series of breakthroughs. What do you suppose is the sum total IQ that is focused on the problem? You would expect five-200 IQ types would bring together a collective IQ of 1000 (off the IQ charts). But in 7 out of 10 situations, they operate at a collective IQ of 300 or lower. Instead of adding together their intelligences they lose 70 percent of their capacity. Somehow they seem to negatively handicap each other's brilliance, rather than enhance their individual contributions. Instead of generating collective smarts and wisdom, they generate collective stupidity. In certain situations they reduce the collective output to 100 IQ or below. We hear about these things when they lead to systemic meltdowns or explosions, like in the Deepwater Horizon explosion in the gulf. More often than not the root cause can be traced to a dysfunctional team, where instead of exponentially becoming smarter, people create the collective stupidity phenomenon.

Redefining Work
The reasons for dysfunctional teams are multiple. But let's redefine "work" first. If your work does not involve repetitive manual labor, the essence of your work is "connecting conversations." That's what you do. You get up in the morning and go to work to help "connect conversations." If this is not in your job description, it ought to be. The sales function is a process of connecting a conversation of need with its fulfillment. Purchase and supply chains, R&D and marketing, are each connecting conversations across the value chain as are all other service functions. How do you create value? To create value you accelerate the conversation; you clarify the conversation; you connect a broken conversation, and you translate the conversation into insight that guides action. Some functions are conversations that communicate critical data. Other functions are conversations that turn data into insight that informs decision and guides action.

If the essence of work is to connect conversations and distill insights that guide decisions and actions, then the efficacy of work is defined by your ability to:

  1. Decipher which conversation you are in, and
  2. Design the conversation to create optimal results

Unleashing the 3.2 Billion
It's amazing how ineffectual a team of highly capable people can become when they reduce their collective output to 100 IQ or 10 percent of capacity, as in the case of the five brilliant managers. The first dysfunction is not listening to and hearing each other. The second dysfunction is being unable to collaborate. The third dysfunction is the focus of this KEY: mixing three conversations: the diagnostic, the prescriptive, and the explorative.

The exponential power of 200 multiplied five times is 3.2 billion!That's the breakthrough output a team of five 200 IQ types can generate when they are in the collaboration zone. They listen and hear each other. They connect the conversations and deeply appreciate ideas and possibilities. And they are highly aware of the context and the nature of the conversation they are in. They differentiate the diagnostic, prescriptive and explorative conversations. Diagnostic discussion is describing where you experience pain or vulnerability. Prescriptive conversation is talking about the optimal solution. Explorative conversation is envisioning plausible futures. Each of these conversations can diverge and then converge to help the team coalesce to create clarity and forward the action. Your strategy formulation and implementation is accelerated by differentiating and leveraging these three conversations.

Now it's your turn. Turn the Key. I wish you all you wish yourself for the coming year. Start the New Year as you aim to continue. Get rid of the old shoes. Become the change you've been waiting for. Focus on what you want to be known for in 2015. Encourage your teams and friends to renew their sense of purpose, confidence and optimism. Work together and help them co-create the future they desire.

© Aviv Shahar