The 5 Principles of Innovative Teams

Projects Manager
Building design and construction is incredibly complex.  Countless perspectives and disciplines—from users to engineers, architects, contractors, craftsmen, and financiers—are required to collaborate in order to design a multitude of building systems that will work in harmony, while also being functional and beautiful.  The process we use to bring together these individuals is called integrative design (ID).
Why integrative design? 
To many, this simply means getting more people in the room. But is more people and more meetings really what it takes to develop meaningful solutions?
The Integrative Design Process is the arguably largest determinant of the success and efficiency of a building. Along with the advancement of building technologies, this process is a critical tool in reducing the environmental impact of buildings and supporting the health of those who inhabit them. So it’s really important we get this right.
But with so many people involved, how can we come to better decisions faster?
Most design teams would agree that the Integrative Process is meaningful, but they are often overwhelmed with the number of people that should be at the table and the time required to make decisions in large groups.  They often ask, how can we come to better decisions faster?
IBE: Taking research to practice
In 2009, the Institute for the Built Environment, Dr. Jeni Cross and additional CSU researchers began evaluating what differentiates the best integrative design projects from those that struggled.  From this research, we discovered that team structure was one of the primary indicators of success in the ID process.
We used social network analysis to visualize teams and illustrate the people, relationships, and structure of teams.  These diagrams showed that although diverse team membership is necessary, this is not all that is required to support collaboration and innovation.  Instead, it is the communication patterns and relationships between people that distinguishes successful integrative design teams.
So, how do we create successful integrative design teams?

Through this research, we identified five key principles of Integrative Design.  By using these principles, teams can build a network with the capacity to make better decisions faster.

1. A Facilitator Guides the Team

A trained facilitator is necessary to moderate the interactions on a team and build trust. Facilitators also develops willingness to take risks and openness to learning within the team, while encouraging equal participation.

Every Team Needs a Cat Herder 

2. The Team Establishes Rules of Interaction

Teams must establish ground rules to guide their interaction.  These ground rules most often resemble:
-Everyone knows everyone
-We all have an equal voice & an expectation to contribute
-Decisions are informed by whole group input
-We are all learning and don’t individually have all the answers

3. The Team has Diverse and Inclusive Membership

Innovation doesn’t happen in a team with people who all think the same or have the same perspectives and opinion. Diversity is required in order to bring the unique data, perspectives, and specialized expertise which are necessary for innovation.

4. The Team has a Core-Periphery Structure

The core team is dense and everyone is very connected (everyone knows everyone), but this team reaches out to a periphery of resources to bring in new ideas and information to the group.

5. The Team Utilizes Integrative Decision Making

The team utilizes a process of generating major decisions as a group, vetting them with appropriate individuals, making sure they align with project vision and goals, and refining decisions as a team.

To learn more about optimal team structure, why it is critical to success, and how to create it download the new white paper, the Social Network of Integrative Design.
At IBE, our mission is to advance the development of healthy thriving built environments, and we do this by taking research to practice.  So, take advantage of the other white papers, presentations, and publications in our research library to advance your knowledge and your work.