What can a barrelful of dirty potatoes teach your staff about brilliant teamwork?


Imagine for a moment that you have to clean a barrelful of dirty potatoes.

You could scrub one at a time.

Or you could fill the whole barrel with water and start shaking. The potatoes inside the barrel, agitated together, rub against each other and the friction cleans them all.

My simple thesis is this....brilliant teamwork is all about creating the right kind of friction.

It might seem counterintuitive to purposely create a clash among your team members. Isn't friction the opposite of everything we have been taught about collaboration?

Yes! And no!

It starts with alignment

Yes, brilliant teamwork begins with alignment, not friction. When working together to solve a challenge there can be no clashing whatsoever about the team's objective, it's definition of success and the areas that it will focus on for solutions. This alignment must be real: it must cascade from the project owner to each team member.

The next step is invention

Here brilliant teams must encourage the wide invention of solutions. Many of these possible solutions will clash. This is where ideas and possibilities agitate and rub up against each other. A friction is created around which ideas best meet the project's definition of success.

The final step is decision

Brilliant teams now collaborate to resolve the agitation and the clashing. They decide. They become aligned around the group's recommendation to the project owner about the strongest solutions to the challenge.

Align. Invent. Decide.