Every workplace knows the importance of teamwork. However, it takes great skills to be able to identify and fit each unique puzzle piece to complete a jigsaw. At Mäd, we champion M-shaped individuals for the diversity that they bring to our team, whether it's multifaceted skills or a varied range of strengths.
What makes M-shaped individuals a great fit for us is the diversity of perspectives that each brings to the table. Shane Snow, the author of Dream Teams, presents several problems and solutions to illustrate how diversity of perspective is the glue to effective collaboration.
Imagine a scenario where we have to cut a cake into 8 equal slices for our guests at a party. The way in which we would approach this task is:
Step 1. Half vertical slice
Step 2. Half horizontal slice
Step 3. Half left diagonal slice
Step 4. Half right diagonal slice
The results are 8 equally sliced pieces of cake.
Now imagine there is a special condition to this task. The condition is to do so only within 3 attempts.
If we carried on with the above steps, we would only arrive at 6 unevenly sliced pieces. However, before we panic, achieving 8 evenly sliced pieces in 3 attempts may be easier than we realize. For example, if we look at the cake from an eye level view, we'd realized that we can achieve 8 evenly sliced pieces by slicing the bottom half after step 2 (vertical and horizontal).
When we are used to looking at the cake from the top down view, the answer is obvious–to cut vertical, horizontal, left diagonal and right diagonal as shown in the first example. However, the caveat is we miss the lesser obvious answers that may be an easier or a faster shortcut.
It is a literal illustration of the importance of perspective. Everyone of us has a unique experience of the world that shapes our perspective. Likewise, a team is made up of diverse members, each carrying in their briefcase years and years of different experiences that make up their strengths and weaknesses.
Consider this next exercise. The task is to rearrange this row of 6 glasses so that it alternates between one full cup and one empty cup. The condition is you can only move one cup.
For the majority of us, the most obvious attempt is to move the second full glass and place it after the first empty cup, only to realize soon-after that the first two glasses are full and the last two glasses are empty (hence, not abiding to the rule of alternating full and empty glasses).
If you're a chemist, the correct answer may have been obvious to you since the start. Chemists pour chemicals from one test tube to one beaker all day and thus, the obvious answer is to pour the second full glass into the second empty glass and return the now-empty glass back to its place. The result is an alternating row of six full and empty glasses in one single move.
Our first attempt follows a forklift operator approach, while our second attempt follows a chemist approach. However, it's not to say that one approach is better than another, it's only to highlight how our approach to solutions may differ depending on our day to day experiences.
Last but not least, the Mountain Range analogy. Each peak in the mountain range below represents the various solutions to a hypothetical problem. It's rare for a problem to only have one solution; usually there are multiple solutions. However, some solutions are better than others and for that reason, there is usually one best solution that fares above the rest.
In our mountain range analogy, the highest peak represents the best solution. The fogs represent factors that may limit our perspective. The act of journeying to the find the highest peak represents the process of finding the best problem-solution fit.
In a team, when it comes to finding the highest mountain peak i.e. finding the best solutions, each team member is likely to be spread out across the range due to their unique life experiences. Their view of the surrounding depends on where they are on the mountain.
This illustrates the importance of a great team fit, how the pairing different specialists i.e a design expert and a developer expert leads to the best results and solutions.
Lateral thinking activities and brain-teasers may seem trivial, but improving your problem solving skills is extremely useful. By broadening your mindset, you can begin to view problems in new ways, and find hidden or novel solutions.
For example, Elon Musk champions 'first principle thinking', whereby complex problems can be broken down into easily manageable components.
Challenging the norm need not mean constantly rewriting current practises. However, it does allow for a more honest, and thoughtful self-audit on company protocol.
Some key questions may be:
For example, you may hold a team meeting every day. In the meeting team members take turns sharing their progress on various tasks. The reasoning for these daily catchups is explained as promoting transparency, accountability, and strengthening internal communication.
Yet, by dissecting the practise and asking key questions—from a different angle—the team may discover more time is wasted than optimized. The simple act of introducing a team management system would allow everyone to share progress in real time and document all activity with ease. Often, diverse perspectives can solve problems that you didn't realise you had.
Because problems come in all shapes and sizes, we need ideas in all shapes and sizes. We can count on a diverse team to never run out of ideas and solutions, at least not before an un-diverse team.
The old saying "Great minds think alike" isn't the full story. It's in fact 'Great minds think alike though fools seldom differ'.
Dare to Think Differently™.