Category Archives: Teams

Are you following unnecessary rules?

There are many conventions and rules which govern our lives and which we mostly don’t question or think about. Most of these rules are there to protect us and maintain a civilised society. But did you ever stop to realise how many rules we impose on ourselves unnecessarily? I had a great experience of realising this the other week during a course.

As part of the course we played a game called ‘Diminishing Resources’. It works like this:

Summary – The floor of the room is set up with various sized squares, made of newspapers, or flip charts or A4 or 8 1/2 x 11 sheets of paper. Participants are asked to move from one square to another. After two or three moves, begin to remove papers, forcing participants on to a smaller number of squares until new and different solutions are arrived at.

Instructions –  To begin, everyone must have both feet in a square; when I say “change,” you must move to a new square; we continue when everyone has both feet in a new square; be brief in the setup, refer questions to the guidelines.

When I was playing this game I realised my self imposed rule of standing only on the paper squares (it wasn’t in the instructions, they only said to stand on a square) when I saw a fellow participant standing on a chair with a square seat. After this I realised the carpet tiles were square, and then that the room was square, so I could stand anywhere and be on a square.

This was a powerful realisation for me – how often am I hindering my creativity by these subconscious, unnecessary rules?

My learning from this game is to try and be more aware of all the possibilities when considering a problem or idea. I will try to ask more questions about how and why particular solutions are created.

I encourage you to use this game with your team or teams/groups you work with – it’s a fantastic kinesthetic and experiential way to realise the power self imposed rules have over our creativity.

If you have experienced this game, what did you think? How else might we expose those self imposed rules?


It was the best of teams and the worst of teams…

“What was the best team you’ve been on?” I struggled to answer this when it was asked on a recent team coaching course I was on. Then, when I heard others’ answers, I felt as thought I had missed out on a really great experience. I believe many other people have not had the joy of being on a ‘high performing’ team, so I was keen to learn the team coaching skills which could help more people have a better team working experience.

The course was on ‘Team Diagnostics’ and run by Team Coaching International. They have four guiding principles for working with teams:

  1. Teams exist to produce results
  2. The team is a living system
  3. Team members want to be on high performing teams and want to contribute
  4. The team has within it the means to excel

Teams are measured on their positivity and productivity, and the team coach will debrief them on their results using graphics such as these:











The key is that the team is treated as a system, there is no focus on individual team members.

This course made me realise the importance of the state of the team for how creative it is. If ideas tend to happen in fluid networks (see ‘Where good ideas come from’ by Steven Johnson), then the team strengths (in the polar diagram above) of communication, camaraderie, constructive interaction, values diversity, respect, trust, goals and strategies, and accountability are fundamental.

The overall ratings on positivity and productivity (see the quadrant diagram above) could also be considered important for idea development. Ideas need to be nurtured, so require a positive, ‘Yes, and…’ environment to thrive. Ideas also need a productive environment – some momentum and hard work in order to develop.

Two of the guiding principles I mentioned earlier struck a chord with me in terms of creativity:

  • ‘The team is a living system’ – creativity is abundant in vibrant situations where “bundles of potentiality manifest their potential in relationship with each other” (from Margaret Wheatley). Creativity needs a ‘living system’ of relationships to survive.
  • ‘The team has within it the means to excel’ – A quote from Steven Johnson’s book mentioned earlier is appropriate here: “This is not the wisdom of the crowd, but the wisdom of someone in the crowd. It’s not that the network itself is smart; it’s that individuals get smarter because they’re connected to the network.” (p.58) Creative ideas exist within each team member, and this creativity will grow and expand just by each individual being connected to the team network.

After three days of learning about teams, I feel I not only have the skills to coach teams, but also, more ideas on the behaviours which encourage creativity.

Is your team a positive and productive fluid network which nurtures ideas? How important do you think teams are for engendering creativity?