Two drawn figures holding cube and pyramid

Transforming Teams from Good to Great

Everyone knows from experience that some groups or teams do better than others. So what is it that sets these successful teams apart?

Increasing productivity of employees is something that every company is interested in. Modern companies know that to achieve this, a well-designed work environment is paramount. Though neither cost nor effort are spared, it turns out to be a challenging nut to crack. While tackling this challenge, it’s helpful to think of service design as an internal possibility. In this case, directors and managers can be seen as the service providers and employees as the end users.

As Margaret Heffernan explains in her TED Talk Forget the pecking order at work, we are used to competing and using money to motivate people. And too often, we still rely on the “brilliant” ideas of a handful of people (often men). But what really seems to motivate us, says Heffernan, is other people.

To excel at our jobs, more than being smart, we need to get to know the people we work with. To begin with, teams whose members are invested in one another are more empathetic and give equal time to each of their members. This means that no voice is ever dominating and no one is silently along for the ride. But what is absolutely essential to their success is their social connectedness to one another.

So how do we design environments that stimulate people to get to know each other?

We take our time. We build trust and openness, the stuff we really need to be productive. Margaret Heffernan gives the example of Fika, the Swedish tradition that, more than just having coffee, means to have a collective, restorative moment in the office. A simple rule that bans coffee cups from desks stimulates people to hang around the coffee machine and talk to each other.

As we can’t all live in Sweden, blessed with national traditions to do the job for us, we have to employ creative measures to improve our company culture. Luckily, there’s no shortage of inspiration out there. Take Warby Parker for example, a company that sells prescription eyeglasses online. To ensure their staff gets to know one another, they send random employees out to lunch together. Or Twitter, found in numerous lists of best places to work. Surveys indicate that employees—despite having hip perks like unlimited vacation and free yoga—are most happy with their amazingly friendly and talented colleagues. Fun, regular team events such as rooftop meetings make them feel like they have a second family at work.

Productivity is not created by a few strong individuals, but by a team of equals who make use of all their different qualities. Successful and highly productive companies are designing environments in which people can create their best work and do their most inspired thinking together. By doing this, they not only provide a valuable service to their employees, but also give the company momentum and make it more productive and durable.

Empowering everyone transforms teams and ideas from good to great.

Image: Collaboration by mcgarrybowen london

Rigorous documentation: A research superpower

When research activities get going in earnest, a lot is produced. If treated too casually, the mass of audio files and transcripts, flip-overs and mini-posters full of post-its, photos, interview notes and feedback mails can quickly turn into a massive hairball that no-one can unpick.

Where do people fit into the Internet of Things?

There are now more things connected to the internet than the number of people in the world. Many of these devices are inside our home, from Bluetooth speakers to smart coffee machines and fridges. In the future, even our plates and curtains might be hooked up to the internet. The house will then resemble a lab, in which we are the studied subjects. How much alcohol do we drink? How often do we wash our hair, or cut our nails? Are we snacking more than usual? Spending longer in front of the mirror? Maybe the homes of the future will know.

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Pushing the Boundaries

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Visual design research…