Why Flat Teams Need Nurturing in Work Magazine

"In today's complex and evolving business environment, many companies are creating flat teams..." 

XPLANE consultant Nina Narelle was interviewed for a short piece in Work magazine this winter in response to her piece The Silent Killer of Flat Teams The article reads...

"Without any one member directing the others, “these teams hold the promise of agility, innovation and speed – the magic trifecta in a rapidly shifting market”, says Nina Narelle. But flat teams often fail to liveup to this promise because businesses treat them like machines, applying rules and processes as inputs and expecting predictable outputs. Describing tensions between the horizontal nature of the teams and the hierarchical businesses in which they operate as “growing pains” in the evolution of new ways of structuring work, Narelle predicts that one day companies will continually move along a spectrum of organisational structures. Meanwhile, members of flat teams need to develop new ways of working. “To truly leverage the potential, each member must be willing to show up with all of their insights, curiosities and hesitations,” says Narelle. “They must be willing to hold each member of the team accountable, as well as be willing to be held accountable themselves.” Business leaders, she adds, can help flat teams succeed by explaining why horizontal structures require new behaviour and modelling this themselves."

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Creating Collaboration in a Room Full of Opinions

If the smartest person in the room is the room, it’s important to give the introverts and extroverts an equal voice.

The average person spends about one-third of the week in meetings. It will come as little surprise that in a typical group of eight, three people do 70% of the talking.

When meetings are full of a mix of loud extroverts and shy introverts, communication is uneven, and often only the opinions of the loud people get heard.

We always say the smartest person in the room is the room because the collective insights of the group are always superior to a few loud voices. How can you foster a culture of collaboration among a group of people with different backgrounds, different comfort levels, and different seniority levels of your org? We’ve gathered four exercises we use in our meetings and sessions (internally at XPLANE and with our clients) to make sure that everyone’s voice is heard equally and the room is as smart as it can be.

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The Smartest Person in the Room

Most meetings are full of blah, blah, blah; they’re speech-heavy and one-directional. We use agendas to give meetings structure. Within this structure we all have our own agendas. We want to convey our personal beliefs and judgements about the best route towards a common direction. We count on our words and our PowerPoint presentations to move our agendas forward. We assume that they are enough to create shared understanding. But are they really?

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Design Thinking vs. Visual Thinking

At XPLANE we pride ourselves on bringing clarity to complexity. We usually do this for clients, but sometimes the need strikes closer to home. This happened recently at a social event when I heard the terms “design thinking” and “visual thinking” used interchangeably (not for the first time—and definitely not for the last). Now, most people who work in business strategy, innovation, or problem-solving can tell you that design thinking and visual thinking are not the same, but not everyone can easily articulate the difference. So in the interest of clarity and some serious cred at your next post-work cocktail hour, here’s a quick explanation of the difference between the two.
Simply put, design thinking is a method for problem solving. IDEO popularized the method in the early 1990s by applying it to product design. Since that time, a variety of design thinking approaches have been applied to an ever-increasing range of challenges. Think of it as a constellation of iterative steps and best practices rather than a specific process. Most of these approaches share the same basic activities:

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Did You Know? Change to Thrive Library

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Did You Know? 6.0: Change to Thrive

Technology and behavior are radically reshaping business—on a global scale. Did You Know? 6.0: Change to Thrive advances the conversation about how organizations can adapt and prosper by changing the way they work.

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10 Tips for Running a Successful Workshop

A workshop can be a very powerful tool for collaboratively sharing information, generating new ideas, and/or aligning people on goals. One of the keys to running a successful workshop is having good facilitation that guides participants toward achieving the goals while nurturing an engaging environment.

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The New Brainstorming: Six Principles to Redeem Group Ideation

"Brainstorming" is a dirty word these days. It conjures up images of people shouting out ideas, getting hit by unreliable bolts of "a-ha" lightning, and touchy-feely groupthink. We know that the original tenets of brainstorming, developed by Alex Osborn in the 1940s, were somewhat flawed.

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Five Card Decks Every Leader Should Own

You may have read every leadership book on the planet, but did you know that some of the best tools out there are hidden inside card decks? Here are five of the best.


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Improve the Remote Experience One Meeting at a Time

As an organization that specializes in collaboration and serves clients all over the globe, it’s critical for us to have the remote meeting experience dialed in. Through the use of virtual meetings with screen share, tablets for live drawing, and experienced facilitators we were able to achieve a fairly successful experiencefor our clients. However, our internal meetings were really suffering. With two offices (Portland and Amsterdam), a handful of employees that work from home, and positions that require significant time on the road, it seemed we almost never had everyone in the room at once. The remote attendees often had a poor experience and participated minimally. The common feedback we heard was, “ I couldn’t really hear or follow the conversation so I just dropped off the call.”  Ouch.
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