How to build predictably more successful teams

January 12, 2018

Research shows that when teams are small and have more frequent and natural conversations, they are predictably more productive and successful.

Huddly GO was made for teams. Here’s how GO can help your team achieve more, together.

The Huddly GO collaboration camera is a great asset to any team, but it turns out that enabling this flexible way of working together is not just nice to have. It supports a methodology and style of teamwork that delivers predictably better results. 

 

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What is the perfect size for a team? 

Well, that depends on who you ask, but the scientific consensus is between 4-7 people.

Research by Marcia W. Blenko, Michael C. Mankins, and Paul Rogers published in the Harvard Business Review in 2010 put that perfect number at 7 people. Their study showed that smaller, flexible teams working in informal structures have great advantages when it comes to decision making, with fewer people in a team reducing the number of decision nodes in a network, increasing efficiency.

This idea is also supported by the theory of the Ringelmann Effect, sometimes also referred to as “social loafing“. This is the tendency for individual members of a group to become increasingly less productive as the size of their group increases. As the number of people in a team grows, their individual sense of responsibility becomes more diffused, their motivation decreases along with their engagement and their average output decreases.

 

Another way to look at it is to take a more subjective approach and look at team members’ own perceptions of the impact of group size on process and performance. In a 1970 study by Hackman and Vidmar, they set a series of various tasks to groups of 2-7 and asked them two questions: “is your group too small for the task?” and “is your group too big for the task?”. The percentage of those who thought their team too small fell as those who thought the opposite rose, and the lines intersected at a team size of 4.6 members.

Interestingly enough, there is some notable anecdotal evidence to support the 4-7 theory. The average team size at Google was observed to be 7 in 2013 and Amazon stays true to the rule too. Jeff Bezos, the world’s now richest man who transformed a 3 person operation in 1995 into the multi-billion monster that we all know and probably feel ambivalent about today, has a very simple rule for meetings: if a team cannot be fed by two pizzas then that team is too large. With fewer team members meaning fewer connections within a network, consistent connections are more easily made, with the complexities increasing as shown in this diagram: 

 

His reasoning behind the “2 pizzas theory” is pretty straightforward – more people means more bureaucracy and slower decision making. According to my own research, and that of the sadly under-utilized “Pizza Algorithm” website, 2 large pizzas will feed 4-7 people, which may go some way to explaining Amazon’s astonishing success.

What dynamics lead to predictably more productive and successful teams?

In short, more frequent and natural conversations within smaller teams. If you are into details, then download our free whitepaper or keep on reading.

In 2012, Alex “Sandy” Pentland, an American Computer Scientist and Director of the MIT Connection Science and Human Dynamics labs, performed a study that sought to identify the group dynamics that characterize high-performing teams. Working with teams of many different sizes and structures in 21 organizations across a range of industries and competencies over 7 years with more than 2500 participants, they had a very specific goal. They wanted to observe, quantify and measure those dynamics that make some teams more energetic, more creative and ultimately more successful than others. And, crucially, they wanted to learn how to strengthen those dynamics.

When they analyzed the collected data (using deeply sophisticated methods generating more than 100 data points a minute that you can read more about here), what they discovered was remarkable: the most significant factor by a huge margin in predicting team success was their patterns of communication. In fact, their data showed that these patterns were as significant as skill, personality, individual intelligence and the substance of discussions combined.

Across the study, they consistently found that there were two specific best predictors of productivity for teams: their engagement and energy outside formal meetings. Regardless of the structure of an organization or the nature of their goals, these observations proved to be true. 

Sandy and his team defined “energy” as the number and the nature of exchanges among team members, with a single exchange defined as a comment and some acknowledgment, with one example being a simple “yes” or nod of the head.

They defined “engagement” as the distribution of energy among team members, characterizing engagement as “extremely strong” if all members of a team have relatively equal and reasonably high energy with all other members. Even when members have high energy communication in a meeting, if some don’t or can’t participate, then the team won’t perform as well as when they do.

Face-to-face will always be the best way to have natural communication. There are hundreds of small, nonverbal cues that we pick up when we can see each other during a conversation – body language, movement, gestures and posture, among others, provide context for the tone of voice and words spoken. 

In the absence of face-to-face communication, there is quite simply nothing that comes close to high-quality video-conferencing for natural communication.

The Importance of The Huddle SpaceA key element to enabling the workflows of high-performing teams is what’s known as “the huddle space”. These are spaces where small groups of people (usually comprised of 6 or fewer) can go to have meetings away from the distractions of the bustling modern office environment. A huddle room will have walls, as opposed to a huddle space, and may or may not be designated specifically for impromptu meetings.

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Bluejeans’ 2015 “State of the Modern Meeting” report states that over 25% of meetings take place with one or more remote participants and that number continues to grow. For these optimal-sized teams of between 4-7, video enabling huddle spaces is a panacea for the obstacles they face – in 2014 the Wall Street Journal reported that 40% of employees waste up to 30 minutes a day simply searching for meeting space. Huddle spaces present a huge opportunity to combat this problem.

There are a few reasons these spaces are still not yet enabled for many organizations. With participants usually close to the screen, a wide angle view is crucial for everyone to be included and engaged. There are lighting challenges associated with these spaces, with small dark rooms or bright open spaces that make it difficult to experience a visually “natural” or true-to-life image.

Embedded laptop cameras, with narrow-angle lenses and poor image quality, don’t suit the needs of these teams. Traditional teleconferencing equipment is bulky, expensive and more suitable for larger, dedicated meeting rooms.

The key to “opening up” huddle spaces and rooms is low cost, simple equipment with high-quality video and wide angle lens that give these teams flexibility. This scenario is precisely what Huddly GO was designed for, with key features that are tailor-made to make huddle spaces a force for enabling the workflow of high-performing, predictably successful teams.

 

How can Huddly GO support those team dynamics?

Ultra-wide angle lens, small form factor and effortless set-up. 

The science shows that the most predictably successful teams are made up of between 4-7 people and communicate frequently in a natural way where all team members feel engaged and part of the conversation.

 

Huddly GO was made for these teams:

  • Huddly GO’s ultra-wide, 150˙ lens makes sure everyone can be seen and everyone feels engaged, no matter the size of the room you in or how many participants there are. 
  • The small size means you can take it with you anywhere and set it up in an instant, giving you the flexibility to meet when and where you want. 
  • Huddly GO’s 16-megapixel image sensor and intelligent software deliver a crystal-clear image, even in challenging lighting conditions.

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The combination of these three factors makes Huddly GO a must-have device for teams who want to be more productive and successful in the modern workplace. But that’s not all GO has to offer – we encourage you to head over to our product page to learn more about what makes Huddly GO so special and how it can help you and your team achieve more, together.

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As ever, thank you for reading, and don’t forget to find out more about our conference cameras at huddly.com.

While you’re here, feel free to subscribe to our blog to hear the latest about Huddly technology, fascinating interviews with the people and companies that inspire us and keep up to date with the latest trends and insights in video collaboration.

 

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