Knowing when to go it alone, and when to pull together
As Rio plays host to the 2016 Olympic Games, we find sports fever taking hold across the planet. No matter what your favorite sport is – rowing, gymnastics, triathlon, volleyball – you can only marvel at the incredible performances put in by so many talented athletes and teams. At DropTask, this got us thinking about the many parallels between this glorious sporting event and the workplace. Just as in the Olympic Games, today’s businesses have individual and team sports, and it’s always best to play by the rules of each game so you can emerge triumphant as opposed to wallowing in defeat.
So, individual work vs teamwork. The question isn’t “which is better?” as they’re both needed for a well-rounded enterprise, but “which is better for what?” Let’s take a look at the kinds of tasks that call for you to work independently and those that benefit from more of a group effort.
Individual work: when flying solo works best
1. Tasks that need high concentration and focus
Group work can be a bad move in some contexts because it interrupts focused thought. All the chatter might be fun and liaising with others creates strong bonds, but less work gets done. An intriguing study known as the Coding War Games found that programmers tend to work faster when coding as individuals without distractions. And as a general rule, designers, engineers, writers, and artists do their best work alone. For tasks that require pinpoint accuracy and mental clarity, it’s better to find your own private space to be productive. Author of Brain Rules John Medina reports that people whose work is interrupted take 50% longer to finish a task and make up to 50% more errors. If you need to focus on an intricate job, block out time in your DropTask calendar to tackle it single-handedly. You’ll get it done quicker without outside disruptions messing up your groove or pointless meetings eating up your time and energy. Use DropTask to brief your team so they know when you’re going to be in a focused work session and don’t want to be disturbed – then get cracking with those tasks!
2. Learning new skills
Everyone has their own individual learning styles and preferences, and there’s mounting evidence to show that solitude can help us learn. Psychologist Anders Ericsson famously said that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert at something. According to his research on peak performance, the best way to master a skill is to go directly to the part that’s most challenging for you personally. This usually means going it alone as you isolate the tasks that are just out of your reach and strive to upgrade your performance bit by bit. In his words, “If you want to improve, you have to be the one who generates the move. Imagine a group class – you’re the one generating the move only a small percentage of the time.”
Visuals – such as icons, images, logos, symbols, colors or shapes – play a massive role in our learning. Educational studies have found that up to 75% of the population prefers visual/spatial thinking, and meaningful visuals can ease ‘cognitive load’, improving the overall learning process. DropTask is all about visual task management to support the natural processes of the brain. If you’re on a training course and want to get some serious study done, or looking to lock down a new skill, then take advantage of DropTask to manage your learning from start to finish. Create a project for your skills development and schedule all your study actions by Start Date and Due Date. You’ll have a complete visual presentation of your course which is much easier to comprehend than pages and pages of notes, and reaches more of your senses all at once. With DropTask’s inclusive features, not only can you visually track each learning milestone, you can also store all your study materials in one neat space, making for a clutter-free mind.
Teamwork: when it pays to be part of a group
1. Brainstorming – generate more, better ideas
Teamwork is a fun, stimulating and useful way to produce tons of ideas, fast. Team discussions offer more scope for creativity in comparison to working solo, especially if they bring together people with diverse backgrounds and experiences. If your group brainstorming sessions always fall a bit flat, then perhaps you haven’t been playing by the rules. For collective idea generation that works, you need to foster a playful environment where people can share their ideas without judgment. Use Alex Osborn’s (the ‘father of brainstorming’) principles as a guideline:
- Go for quantity: Don’t stop at the first, most obvious idea. Creativity is a numbers game. Aim to extract as many ideas as possible and you might just hit upon a real breakthrough.
- Seek out crazy ideas: Avoid groupthink by encouraging teams to shoot for insane and exaggerated ideas. The wilder the better. Ideas that seem completely ridiculous or far-fetched on first sight can always be toned down to something more practical later on.
- Suspend judgment: Postpone any criticism or analysis of ideas until you’ve generated a sufficient number to work with. Snap judgments, whether positive or negative, will destroy the seeds of potential ideas as people fear to speak up in case their suggestions are rejected.
- Combine and build on ideas: Two bad ideas can combine into a great one. Try snowballing on other people’s ideas to create more robust solutions or merge two radical ideas and see what happens!
Provide team members with a visual platform on which to capture and connect all their ideas, like iMindMap’s brainstorming view. Once you’ve got a pile of options ready, don’t forget the most crucial step – taking action on the best ones. Nothing kills group motivation and creativity faster than new proposals that come to nothing. Use DropTask to get moving on your ideas and secure total buy-in from your colleagues. Invite team members to collaborate on joint projects, and define specific actions and timelines to make things happen. That way, the whole team can share in the moment of victory.
2. Problem solving – “two heads are better than one”
Two or more people are always better than one for solving problems. In a team, everyone is unique and can apply different skills and viewpoints to explore a problem from multiple angles. Leave it to one individual, and they’re at risk of becoming overwhelmed and reaching illogical conclusions. Open communication is key for effective team problem solving, but the use of numerous messaging channels such as email, phone and text can be more of a hindrance than a help. Important messages can easily get lost in a wave of back-and-forth emails. Agree upon just one medium to make your team play more manageable. DropTask provides a shared space that makes it easier for each individual to think like a united team when tackling complex problems, rather than acting the lone ranger. People can ask questions, share files and update progress, all in real time. This open environment acts as a great support mechanism for team members during challenging times, as people can look to one another for help and guidance, leading to better decisions. With everyone (including remote colleagues) working from the same page, you can be sure that no one will be left in the dark and that the best solutions will always come to light. After all, a collaborative team is a winning team!
As you can see, a blend of both independence and interdependence is a must for optimal productivity in the workplace, and DropTask supports both. When do you prefer to work alone or in a team? Hit the comments and let us know.