The ‘I’ in Team’s Creativity

Lidor WyssockyBlog

You know the saying “There’s no I in Team”? It is one of these generic statements that are being pulled in situations where a real answer that addresses the situation is hard to craft. It also has a nice ring to it and when combined with the fact there is really no ‘I’ in the word “team”, you have a killer slogan you can use for lack of anything better to say.

Should team members dissolve into the team? Is this essential for the team to succeed? Might it do more damage than good?

I don’t want to discuss aspects like leadership and motivation. Instead, I will focus on the impact of the individual on the creativity of the team and the ability to do groundbreaking things.

A Team with One Voice is Less Creative

Here’s the thing: when a team speaks in one voice — when the team resolves potential conflicts, different approaches, or different ways of doing things by using only “the need to act as one” slogan — creativity becomes a second-class citizen.

This might sound strange if you consider that many (if not most) of creative endeavors are the created in the mind of a person working alone. Doesn’t a person working alone have by definition one voice?

When a team speaks in one voice creativity becomes a second-class citizen.Click To Tweet

To understand the difference, we need to acknowledge that creativity relies on diverse — maybe even random — input. The more you are exposed to different stimuli and raw material, the better conditions you have to trigger a creative idea in your mind. Creative people are wired to absorb these inputs all the time. If you are aiming to develop your creativity, creative observation is the first thing you should work on.

When the mindset of a team is “doing things the team-way”, each member of the team becomes less exposed to diverse inputs. Team members will get the message pretty early in the game: if I think differently than the team, I might as well keep it to myself. And when that happens, opinions, original thoughts, and random ideas just get lost. And that’s a bad thing regardless of the “objective quality” (whatever that is) of these ideas — it is bad just because there is less discussion on different options and less raw material gets into the team’s collective mind.

Does that mean every member of the team can do whatever they like? Of course not. It’s a matter of balance and timing. Team members should know they can and should bring their original idea to the table. They should also know this does not mean the team will accept 100% of these ideas — but they will always be valued.

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Creativity relies on many voices being heard. When you work alone, it is up to you to make room for such voices — to be open to input of all kinds which you can later use as raw material. When working as part of a team we should make sure the team hears and encourages individual voices if we want to maximize the creativity of the team.