The MIT Prof. Alex “Sandy” Pentland recently published the results of his multi-year research called The New Science of Building Great Teams where he and his MIT’s Human Dynamics Laboratory analyzed so called “an ineffable buzz” or spirit de corps in different types of teams. They came to a firm conclusion that understanding and managing good teamwork is not an art but a hard science, quantifiable and measurable. They implemented wearable electronic sensors called sociometric badges, which allowed them to capture how people communicate with each other and to define characteristics that make up a good team. Here is a brief summary of their findings:

  • Communicate frequently. In a typical project team a dozen or so communication exchanges per working hour may turn out to be optimum; but more or less than that and team performance can decline.
  • Talk and listen in equal measure, equally among members. Lower performing teams have dominant members, teams within teams, and members who talk or listen but don’t do both.
  • Engage in frequent informal communication. The best teams spend about half their time communicating outside of formal meetings or as “asides” during team meetings, and increasing opportunities for informal communication tends to increase team performance.
  • Explore for ideas and information outside the group. The best teams periodically connect with many different outside sources and bring what they learn back to the team.

I wholeheartedly agree with Prof. Pentland – building and managing the teams is not art. We are accustomed to hide behind “it’s not science, it’s art” to justify our unwillingness to look inside the matter and Prof. Pentland’s work is another proof of it.

In my little blurb here I’d like to underscore a couple of points:

  •  This study is sterling evidence that a foundation of a good team is connection between people.
  • Four great findings from the study are functions of connection between team members (plus a connection with the outside in the 4th one), so they would come naturally after implementation of the Integral Thinking methodology through facilitation of a series of workshops that would bring virtually any team to the next level of connection.