What is Team Intelligence and How to Manage It

Jackie Tucker Gangnes

8 minutes
Teamwork is one of the most critical ingredients for business success, but it’s often oversimplified and misunderstood. Teams that create chemistry, the X factor that goes beyond resume stats, have the instinctive ability to synchronize efforts to achieve greatness. Here we explore the connection between team intelligence and optimizing your organization's performance.

What is Team Intelligence?

Team intelligence explores the concept of team unity across all aspects of team dynamics and uncovers the keys to optimal performance.

With advances in technology continuing to pave the way for more connection, the world feels like it's getting smaller and yet often feels more complicated to navigate. Take a typical team today. Chances are the roles within didn’t exist 20 years ago, maybe even 10 —and global digital teamwork most definitely wasn’t a thing. Advancements and change in our world bring about new and unique opportunities for businesses and people. But, with such a myriad of opportunities, how do you stay tapped into your teams’ superpowers and maintain optimal performance for business success?

We have funneled a variety of thoughts on the topic and arrived at our definition.

 Team intelligence exists when team members eschew self-interest, move beyond the individualized concept of emotional intelligence and take up a think-together operating mode that embraces the collective good—reaching optimal team performance. 

Teams built on a solid foundation of positive culture, who work in sync as a cohesive unit, irrespective of hierarchy position, will achieve better results —if they can think systemically through inter-connectedness of multiple viewpoints. With strong leadership, a team can adopt a think-together mode and view only through that lens. This approach to successful teaming will support unity in everything from a shared vision and goals, clarity of role and connection to others, knowledge sharing and reasoning, accountability, mutual respect, and conduct and interaction.

Harnessing Team Intelligence for Success

Just as the African proverb says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
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Knowing what makes the team successful is a prerequisite for harnessing team intelligence. Google’s take on five keys to a successful team shares the view that who is on a team matters less than how team members interact, structure their work, and view their contributions —further supporting the idea that inter-connectedness is the root of future team success. Small team inter-connectedness efforts can seem insignificant, yet their impacts on your organization at large can be huge (the Butterfly Effect).

We can harness team intelligence for business success when we capture what makes us unique in skill set, personality, and drive and bring together emotional and cultural intelligence with empathetic managers orchestrating team synergy.

Speaking on behalf of Living Brand Result, Kalina Donald, Chief Experiential Innovation Officer, offers their approach to achieving team intelligence.

“Team cohesion and strategic intelligence is something we teach at Living Brand Result, sure, but it’s also something we practice daily as our values. When we’re brainstorming and collaborating as a group, we achieve a synergy that takes us beyond what we could create as individuals as we are values aligned and purpose-driven. It’s this synergy that bonds a team, creating an environment in which they feel safe to put forward ideas, take bold action, and celebrate success together.”

When you place an intentional focus on the concept of team intelligence, you realize benefits across teams, through to clients. The most notable of which is effective interaction. You also gain the following benefits:

  • An understanding of employee's style, strengths, and development needs
  • Promotes diversity, inclusion, and belonging 
  • Gives the responsibility of a connections planner to each team member 
  • Creates accountability for achieving higher standards of team behaviors and delivery of work
  • Drives sustained business performance through improved communications
  • More efficiency and effectiveness in capitalizing on business opportunities.

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When the chemistry of your teams isn’t a focus, it can lead to a multitude of organizational risks, including miscommunication, conflict, demotivation, high turnover, and ultimately an impact on your bottom line.

As noted by Liane Davey, Ph.D., in Why teams break down, “Machines are very susceptible to the damage of friction as parts grind on one another and create wear and tear. In teams, this friction comes from different styles, poor communication skills, and unhealthy conflict.” According to Davey, it’s important to pay attention to these differences and minimize their negative effects on the team.

One method of preemptively addressing issues is through the collective intelligence of your employees. Collective intelligence helps create organizational trust, access diversity of thought, and ultimately respect the basic human right to be heard. It also helps deliver the best solutions.

Team Intelligence is fluid and will continue to evolve as patterns within teams change. That said, if you have strong leadership and effective team interaction, you could replace one of the metaphoric cogs of your business, and the wheels should continue to turn.

5 Ways to Manage Team Intelligence

There are many ways you can build team chemistry, keep teams engaged, committed and create a unified approach to a shared vision. Here we highlight five cornerstones:

1. Alignment to the common goal

This is probably the only time one size should fit all. The common goal should be clear and absorbed by all —regularly. Aligning the goal among teams gives your employees the feeling that everyone contributes to your goals together, forming stronger team bonds.

One tip to help with reinforcing alignment at the team level is to start each meeting with a reminder of the goal for that meeting. Weaving in constant reminders will reinforce the end goal of supporting a shared vision.

2. Create a psychologically safe atmosphere

To cultivate a culture of transparency and support, specifically in remote or hybrid working environments, it’s imperative that all team members feel they can openly express their opinions.

In her work with Google’s Project Aristotle, Harvard Business School’s Amy Edmondson coined the phrase ‘psychological safety’ as “a belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes.”

In her Tedx Talk, Edmondson explains three things you can do to build a psychologically safe workplace:
  1. frame the work as a learning problem, not an execution problem.
  2. acknowledge your fallibility.
  3. model curiosity.
People are happiest and most productive when they have a sense of psychological safety. To create an environment where people are comfortable being themselves, they need interpersonal trust and mutual respect.

3. Crack the code on employee engagement and retention

When it comes to employee engagement, there is no one-size-fits-all.

Throwing in a global pandemic on top of an already elusive issue makes for a challenging time. Gallup previously reported that employee engagement decreased globally by two percentage points following a steady rise over the last decade, from 22% in 2019 to 20% in 2020.  They also report that workers’ daily stress reached a record high, increasing from 38% in 2019 to 43% in 2020.

With no easy hill to climb, where do you start? A starting point is with open channels of communication within your team. Employees need to feel like they have a comfortable direct line to their manager and a connection to one another. Frequent check-ins to seek everyone’s opinions can help build all team members’ confidence and comfort level, allowing introverts the opportunity to speak up and not hold back. Employees like to feel heard, validated, and connected. Managers must create the right environment for engagement to exist organically and effectively.

These 14 employee retention strategies cover areas where deliberate action can help boost your employees’ job satisfaction and ability to retain valued workers. As we’re all unique individuals, the same method won’t work for all of us.

Observe, absorb and respond to the individualized engagement needs of your employees and remember to start small. Intentional and genuine acts can go a long way in fostering a healthy, engaged team.

4. Frequent and genuine recognition

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Often the smallest gestures leave the biggest imprint. With abrupt changes to the corporate world in the past 18 months, many are experiencing greater workloads and responsibilities.

Taking time out from writing a business response to send personal praise or show of appreciation can go a long way in nurturing positive emotions and enhancing performance. Appreciation plays a major role in reducing burnout, boosting morale, and greatly impacting employee retention by increasing employee satisfaction.

Employees who receive regular praise and recognition tend to be more connected to their coworkers —positively impacting team chemistry. People like to feel like they are connected to a purpose and contributing in a way that makes a difference.

5. Know your team’s weaknesses

It’s said that in jazz bands, the band is only as good as the worst player because no matter how great some members may be, everyone hears the worst player. The same goes for your organization.

Do you have people on your team that keep too much to themselves? This behavior can negatively impact the overall team effort. Non-team-players are often misunderstood as arrogant when they feel out of place and awkward in many cases.

For every strength a team has, there is equal weakness. Identifying and addressing weaknesses on your team leads to a stronger, more successful unit. Taking time to understand individuals’ strengths and weaknesses and developing a strategy to overcome, is key to progression.

This doesn’t necessarily mean huge change all at once; it’s more important to make consistent, lasting changes.

Accessing Collective Team Intelligence with ThoughtExchange

Starting the process of fostering change within an organization can often be the most challenging step. You can kickstart this process with insights that will help you shape your path. ThoughtExchange offers an unparalleled way to engage your employees using patented anti-bias technology with multilingual capabilities. With what we call an Exchange, you’ll be able to address your team’s and organization’s unique challenges and needs by learning what people actually think. Turn these insights into actions and ignite the chemistry of your team.

Contact us to see how ThoughtExchange can drive your organization to the next level.

About the Author

Jackie Tucker Gangnes

Born in Kettering, England, Jackie has spent most of her adult life in Vancouver, Canada. Her natural flair for creativity in all forms of communication led her to a 15 year career spanning marketing, brand strategy and internal corporate communications. She is passionately invested in personal wellbeing and sharing her experiences with others, writing about gut health to world spa experiences. Jackie believes that your relationship with yourself is the foundation and cornerstone to everything else in your life. Combining her passions, and between raising two kids, today she writes for the curious mind, exploring different thoughts, ideas, and perspectives on what makes us human, and what fuels us to thrive.