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Separation, alignment and cohesion

Explore the conditions required for teams to experience TeamFlow.

For teams to experience Teamflow, the right conditions are needed. To get a better understanding of what these are we can look to the natural world.

Anyone who has seen the often beautiful behaviour of birds flocking, fish shoaling or insects swarming will have seen a ‘team’ in ‘flow’. Humans can marvel at these displays of synchronisation and ask ourselves, ‘How do they not bump into each other?’, ‘How do they know what to do?’ and ‘Is there a leader?’

Computers scientists have discovered three simple rules that govern flocking behaviour which also allow them to simulate flocking it:

1. Separation: knowing your place and not crowding others.

2. Alignment: steering towards the average direction of those neighbours around you.

3. Cohesion: steering towards the average position of those neighbours.

These three rules turn out to be extremely valuable as a framework for understanding the conditions that make Teamflow more likely. How do the three rules relate to the day-to-day experience of teams in our workplaces?

Separation

We can create meaningful separation between team members by ensuring there is a recognition and understanding of each person’s unique contribution to the team. This includes the knowledge they have, the skills they have developed and their core character strengths.

We can also create meaningful separation between team members by having clarity of expectations. By checking in with others so we are all clear on what we are meant to be doing, we can boost performance, avoid duplication of effort and minimise wasted time.

Finally, we can also create meaningful separation between team members by nurturing an environment where people feel safe to stretch. This requires psychological safety and knowing our team won’t judge us negatively. It also requires team members to take accountability for stretching and growing by stepping outside of their comfort zones.

Alignment

We can strengthen alignment between team members through the creation of team goals and everyone contributing to the achievement of these. Team goals help keep us connected, focused on what’s important, and boost team performance.

Additionally, we can strengthen alignment between team members by regularly checking in that we are on track. This involves caring for ourselves and each other by monitoring our energy and wellbeing for longer-term sustainable performance.

Lastly, we can strengthen alignment between team members by tapping into our team motivators. These include our purpose, values and beliefs – it’s important for our alignment not only to define these motivators but also find ways to sustain our attention on them.

Cohesion

One way to improve cohesion between team members is to build respectful relationships. This encompasses demonstrating trust, giving each other full attention when needed and supporting each other to do our best work – these actions build respectful relationships that boost our performance and are vital for our wellbeing.

Another way to improve cohesion between team members is to use platforms for connection for keeping connected. It is important to ensure we use platforms in a way that includes everyone and creates a sense of belonging, rather than allowing gaps to widen between those who engage and those who don’t.

Also, we can improve cohesion between team members through meaningful communication. Feedback is a valuable part of this, as team members can learn ways to give each other meaningful, motivating feedback by doing it regularly to support team cohesion, performance and wellbeing.

We will use this framework throughout this course, looking in-depth at each of the suggestions above and exploring the related research. By the end of the course, will have a solid understanding of how to create the conditions that make Teamflow more likely.

Summary

In nature, Teamflow is found in flocking behaviour which is based on three simple rules:

1. Separation: knowing your place and not crowding others.

2. Alignment: steering towards the average direction of those neighbours around you.

3. Cohesion: steering towards the average position of those neighbours.

These rules can be used as a framework for understanding how to create the conditions for Teamflow.

In the next step, you will participate in a poll to reflect on the nine ways to create the conditions for Teamflow.

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How to Foster Teamflow in the Workplace

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