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Innovative Team Collaborations
January 3, 2020
We don't accomplish anything in this world alone ... and whatever happens is the result of the whole tapestry of one's life and all the weavings of individual threads from one to another that creates something.
-Sandra Day O'Connor

In his popular book about innovative leadership, Idea Magnets, Mike Brown describes ways to support team members in becoming more creative thinkers (or Idea Magnets, as he calls them). He writes: “Pairing people with diverse perspectives is fundamental to developing Idea Magnets. Likewise, creating an environment that pairs diverse settings and activities provides the backdrop for Idea Magnets to flourish.

To help your team foster an ever-increasing number of connections, routinely vary the way the team works together. If they typically work in a large group, create an environment where they can work solo or in small groups. Since people tend to gravitate toward working with the same people, actively manage the work pairings. One possibility? Create unlikely pairings of people and have them find the common connections they share.”

In a similar vein, Kelly Matthews, in Developing People, writes about using the rules of improvisation to build more creative and playful teams. She explains: “The world of improvising may seem like an unlikely source of inspiration, but the ‘habits of mind’ that improv troupes follow as a way of being with their fellow players make a lot of sense in the early childhood world.” Matthews gives this definition of improvisation.

  • thinking about what will move this situation forward, not blocking
  • acting with intention towards what this moment needs, and moving towards your overall direction
  • knowing fully that what you offer (or don’t offer) impacts the well being of your team
  • paying attention in the moment so you can make your best offer.”

She makes the point that if all agree to the rules of improv, then any creative idea is always considered. She offers a “Yes, and…” strategy to use when people throw out ideas. She explains:

“In the case of ‘Yes, and…,” the offer [one person’s creative idea] is accepted and then moved forward in some way by adding another offer.” In other words, offers (ideas) are never rejected, but once an offer is made, another person can change or add to the first person’s idea by saying, “Yes, and…”

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