Apropos Friday's popUp on structuring team collaboration, this article appeared in today's NYT. It takes a mostly psychological approach to analyzing what kinds of teams do better - that is, it looks at the personal characteristics of team members.</p><p>

It presents interesting results - empathy and equal participation turn turn out to be important predictors.  And the grabby element of the article: teams with more women do better on average.

It would be easy to come away from reading this thinking that the magic is all in picking team members with the right characteristics rather than how you structure the activity of the team.  That could lead to the illusion that all leaders need to do is administer personality tests - that team success is all draft and no coaching.

The point of our popUp is that what you DO as a team can have as much or more of an effect than what you ARE as a team. In any case, the former is often much more under our control.  We often have to solve problems with the team that we have, not the team that we would like.

There is one hint of the importance of structure in this article: teams where members participate equally tend to do better. I'm working on a tool that would be like a speed-chess timer for teams: in a four person team meeting for an hour each person gets 15 minutes of "floor time." Each time a person starts to talk she hits her timer and then hits it again when she finishes.  Once her 15 minutes are up, she has to leave the talking to others.  I suspect teams would only need to use the device a few times as a training tool: the self awareness that would come from acknowledging taking the floor and yielding it back along with a sense of one's accumulated floor time would probably make all of us better team collaborators.