Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Facilitating Creativity through Effective Team Building

In order to encourage creativity, employees must be in a position to advance their skills and competencies. Specifically, employees must be positioned within a job role where their talents can be best exploited. Effectively matching employees with job roles that recognise their idiosyncrasies will help to enhance intrinsic motivation. This process is best described by Buckingham in the article ‘What Great Managers Do’:

“Average managers play checkers, while great managers play chess. The difference? In checkers, all the pieces are uniform and move in the same way; they are interchangeable. You need to plan and coordinate their movements, certainly, but they all move at the same pace, on parallel paths. In chess, each type of piece moves in a different way, and you can’t play if you don’t know how each piece moves. More important, you won’t win if you don’t think carefully about how you move the pieces. Great managers know and value the unique abilities and even the eccentricities of their employees, and they learn how best to integrate them into a coordinated plan of attack” (2005, p. 72)

As recognised by Buckingham, the workforce will invariably comprise a number of diverse and unique talents which, if used effectively, allow the organisation to coordinate an appropriate business strategy. The importance of management recognising unique and valuable idiosyncrasies is undeniable; failing to recognise these resources restricts the organisation’s capacity to coordinate. Indeed, developing an understanding of one’s workforce has become an organisational imperative where innovation is to be achieved. Further, management must continue to ensure that the fit between the employee and their role remains viable. Any discrepancies between an individual’s creative potential and actual creative output may indicate a poor fit between the individual and their position. Such discrepancies must be addressed in order to avoid friction. In order to recognise the employee’s true value, an environmental change designed to facilitate congruence between potential and actual creative output may be appropriate. Such changes may include the provision of greater freedom, autonomy, variety or feedback.

Similarly, the importance of diverse and varied workgroups has been frequently recognised. The importance of organisational collaboration and group problem solving is now equal to day to day operational considerations, such as paperwork. The effective construction of teams may facilitate organisational creativity, on the proviso that the appropriate heterogeneous and homogeneous connections are made. For example, heterogeneity between group members encourages the productive challenging and critiquing of ideas, based upon contrasting expertise and frames of reference. Conversely, homogeneity between members encourages shared intrinsic motivation and behaviours. Employees should be encouraged to identify and develop their strengths. By exploiting those skills which the employee finds easy, energising, and enjoyable, the organisation can benefit from enhanced productivity, whilst simultaneously improving the individual’s intrinsic motivation.

Such a win-win situation is only possible where employee’s strengths are proactively identified. By recognising an employee’s unique skills and attributes, management can encourage the individual to develop their capabilities. As the employee’s abilities blossom, they become a source of area expertise within the group. Encouraging employees to perfect their strengths facilitates recognition of potential, whilst augmenting levels of subject interdependency within the group. Such leveraging of capabilities will help create ‘great groups’; teams which rely upon one another to create an environment of regular innovation, where knowledge is generated and dispersed frequently.

Clearly, diversity offers benefits by enlarging the knowledgebase from which action can be crafted, whereas similarities provide a mutual source of support, and facilitated communications shared interpretations and behaviours.

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