Collide with your team for the best results

Collisions spark creativity, just as particles colliding with sufficient energy – a destructive act itself – sparks discovery of new and exotic particles that physicists have never observed before.

Team members must learn to collide, to work together differently. Collision of ideas and perspectives fosters the emergence of unconventional collaboration and new solutions to tough challenges. Paradoxically, by bringing energy and co-creativity, creative collision can help destruct silos and create greater team cohesion and commitment to shared results.

Collision of ideas and perspectives fosters the emergence of unconventional collaboration and new solutions to tough challenges.

With cohesion, team members have each other’s back, feel safe asking for help and put sensitive issues on the table. Such trust, respect and collaboration are vital in highly matrixed environments. All the positive elements that bring about cohesion are still a good foundation, yet no longer enough. And too much cohesion at the cost of effective tension and debate can lead quickly to consensus paralysis, group think and stagnation that slows decision-making.

With collision, team members value perspective-taking – letting good ideas come from everywhere. However, too much collision can lead to unhealthy power dynamics, possible loss of members and misaligned execution.

Practically, such integration might look like this: Team members put the toughest issue with no easy answer on the table, frame powerful questions around it, collide to maximize diversity of perspectives, invite healthy opposition – and actually listen vs. the strongest voice wins. This approach works to develop new ideas, make decisions faster, create experiments to test in action, and adapt based on successes and failures.

In building the capacity to cohere and collide, we find these foundational principles often help:

An ultimate mission: Visualizing a common direction rooted in purpose and meaning, that brings guidance to the collision, is critical. This is different from having a fixed destination, rooted in clear plans, best practices and end results. It’s a definition of success embedded in values, principles of how we work together and a view of how customers or other stakeholders will experience success.

Sense/quality of belonging: Trust is more than “I can count on you to deliver.” It’s also each team member granting each colleague with positive, unconditional regard, even if you violently disagree with their opinion. It’s about preserving human dignity through fierce disagreements – and it’s essential for team safety and effectiveness. Creating a healthy sense of belonging enables each member to take greater personal risk.

Self-awareness and radical accountability: Each team member must know his or her trigger points, biases and conditioned tendencies, as well as understand subtle cues. They must be able to spot symptoms when someone is playing it safe or falling into habits that may have served in the past but now limit agility. This level of self-awareness allows self-regulation in action, so the team can stay in the heat of the tension without anyone taking it personally and regressing to old habits of mind and action.

Spaciousness: It’s important to provide space to observe, reflect, learn, think creatively and listen. A heated debate of opinions often prevents this spaciousness – everyone asserts their perspective, and nobody listens. It generates little commitment and kills productivity. With great spaciousness, team members leave the dialogue feeling heard, inspired and committed. Creating rituals like “pause” moments, “stillness,” check-ins, time outs and grounding practices can help teams sustain and nurture collision.

Diversity: Maximizing diversity helps to spur creativity. This is not about gender and culture, but more about diversity of perspectives that can spark creative dialogue. Make sure that the team includes the right members to foster perspective-taking on the issue being discussed.

Cohesion and collision comprise a polarity to be managed vs. solved and integrating them enables creativity and nimble actions. In this era of relentless VUCA – volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity – both cohesion and collision are increasingly essential to deliver agile creative action, a must today.

Learn more about our People & Organizational Performance Practice