The People Edge — Creative, Innovative, Diverse Teams

Susan Solovic, Author, The One Percent Edge: Small Changes That Guarantee Relevance and Build Sustainable Success

The People Edge — Creative, Innovative, Diverse Teams

“Surround yourself with the best people you can find, delegate authority, and don't interfere as long as the policy you've decided upon is being carried out.”

—Ronald Reagan

Many people believe Ronald Reagan was a great president. Whether you agree isn’t important for me to make my point. People thought Reagan would fail, but Reagan surrounded himself with some of the best and the brightest minds America had to offer. As a result, he transformed a struggling economy into one with soaring growth, he rebuilt the military, and he restored alliances. He did what many of his critics thought was impossible.

Having the right people on board is essential to the success of any organization, and it is imperative for a company creating a competitive edge. The bottom line for any business leader is: you don’t know what you don’t know. Understanding this becomes the foundation for building a great team. You’ve probably heard successful professionals say they hire people who are smarter than themselves.

Consider your own team. 

  • Do you have the creative people on your team?
  • Are you leveraging the power of diversity?
  • Does your team truly understand your company’s purpose?
  • Do you have too many layers of bureaucracy to react in a timely fashion?
  • Are your employees empowered and accountable?
  • Do your employees feel as though they can speak freely without fear of retribution?

Team Building Blocks

Team members need to know how their work fits into the larger mission. Playing a small role in an important production is fine, but playing a small role in a pointless production is toxic for teamwork and productivity.

Keep tabs on team effectiveness. Measure how long it takes between the time team members discover a problem and when they decide to say something about it. The longer time it takes, the more dysfunction creeps into the group. Morale drops and members become unengaged. The gossip mill grows rampant, and miscommunication begins to take over. Create an environment where people feel comfortable to bring up issues in a timely fashion.

Build diversity into your teams. A Harvard Business Review article notes a body of recent research finding that non-homogenous teams are smarter. When you work with people who are different from you, you’re challenged to think in different ways. You shed your stale ways of thinking and are pushed out of the autopilot habits that have limited performance. We’re always talking about thinking out of the box; it’s impossible to do if everyone at the table thinks alike.

Need more persuasion? Consider these findings:

  • In a study published in Innovation: Management, Policy & Practice, the authors analyzed levels of gender diversity in research and development teams from 4,277 companies in Spain. They found that companies with more women were more likely to introduce radical new innovations into the market over a two-year period. Other studies have found that cultural diversity enhances innovation.
  • A 2015 McKinsey report on 366 public companies found those in the top quartile for ethnic and racial diversity in management were 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their industry mean, and those in the top quartile for gender diversity were 15 percent more likely to have returns above the industry mean.
  • A Harvard Business Review article notes that diverse teams are more likely to examine facts more closely; and diverse panels raise more fact-related questions and make fewer factual errors.

Great teams are empowered and diverse.  Working with people who look just like you may feel more comfortable, but you shouldn’t be lulled into a false sense of security. Conformity, groupthink, and old-school habits, diminish your ability to create a competitive, sustainable edge.

About the Author

Susan Solovic is an award winning entrepreneur, New York Times bestselling author, media personality, keynote speaker and attorney.  Her new book, The One Percent Edge: Small Changes That Guarantee Relevance and Build Sustainable Success is now available in bookstores and online retailers.  Solovic is also the host of The One Percent Edge podcast.