Business Book Summary: Teaming

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In Teaming, Amy C. Edmondson explains how the increasingly complex and demanding nature of the business world poses learning challenges to organizations. Those who form flexible and collaborative teams to achieve their goals are more likely to be successful. Such collaboration does not come naturally, however, and Edmondson examines how hierarchical status, cultural differences, and distance often prevent individuals from teaming effectively. Leaders can overcome these barriers by recognizing them and modifying their leadership styles to support and facilitate teaming. Learning is paramount in this process, and much of the most useful learning comes from conflict and failure, which can only occur when leaders foster an atmosphere of psychological safety.

Amy C. Edmondson offers readers the following advice:

• Teaming is a dynamic activity, not a bounded, static entity. It involves coordinating and collaborating without the benefit of stable team structures, because many operations require a level of staffing flexibility that makes stable team composition rare.

• The power of teaming in complex operations is the ability to anticipate, solve, and diagnose problems, and reduce system risks in order to avoid consequential failures.

• In innovation operations, leadership is needed to create a receptive environment for exploration and experimentation. Teaming is essential for coming up with new ideas, reducing them to the most viable options, testing and refining them, and ultimately producing ground-breaking and useful new possibilities.

• Learning from failure is a crucial teaming skill. Unfortunately, most people see failure as unacceptable and therefore go to great lengths to avoid any association with it. This attitude is regrettable, as many failures provide useful information about improvement techniques or enhancing efficiency.

• To advance useful experimentation, leaders must reward both experimentation and failure, use verbiage that overcomes intellectual barriers to learning from failure, and devise insightful experiments that generate more smart failures.

• Essential learning in organizations occurs not through individuals working alone to sort through and solve important problems, but rather through people working and learning collaboratively in flexible teams.

Teaming by Amy C. Edmondson is written for executives, managers, project leaders, and supervisors who wish to study or promote the concept of teaming in order to improve organizational performance. The book provides guidelines to establish frameworks for comprehending and responding to the fluidities of collective learning. It is written in a scholarly, well-researched style and contains numerous tables and exhibits. Most chapters conclude with sections titled “Leadership Summary” and “Lessons and Actions,” which highlight key points and essential performance considerations. It was written to enable readers to navigate between chapters to locate specific information as needed, but it can also be read sequentially. Readers will find the book a useful aid in leading colleagues and organizations to overcome increasingly complex problems and challenges.

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