Successful teams pursue the right kinds of risks

Jack Blog

May 17th, 2016 By Jack Morton

Is your team brave enough?

I recently attended a panel on “teaming” at the Experiential Marketing Summit in Denver, CO. Based on research led by Google, Harvard professor Amy Edmondson spoke about psychological safety as a crucial element of a successful team. We can cultivate this mindset if those at the top of an organization encourage us to fail well together.

Edmondson defines failing well as occasionally encountering “intelligent failures,” which means we had an undesired outcome as the result of a ‘thoughtful foray into novel territory.’ This likely means that we were willing to be brave, an approach that may not always achieve our goals but has a greater likelihood of bringing us greatness than playing it safe.

However, “preventable failures” (where we had a blueprint but didn’t follow it), and “complex failures” (where complex factors combined in new ways to produce failures) are not failures to celebrate, according to Prof. Edmondson. But we should not dwell on them either. Apply the learnings, readjust and move ahead.

These are her ingredients for the best team results:

1. A compelling shared goal

2. Diverse expertise

3. Distinct but flexible roles

4. Ideas welcomed, independent of status

5. Deliberate, smart experimentation

6. Frequent transparent communication

7. Persistence through failure

The other thing that stayed with me after the Summit: We are in a very large but very close-knit industry. Friendships are built quickly and transcend agency lines. Maybe that is because we have all cultivated psychological safety together by creating extraordinary brand experiences and building brands.

After all, we are in a most extraordinary business – and the fact that the show must go on has a way of building bonds that trump everything else.