Using Social Network Theory to Build More Effective Teams

Brian Uzzi, from Kellog School of Management, has done some interesting work on social networks and team performance.

He found that the most effective teams include:

  1. a mixture of both experienced people and individuals who are new to the field
  2. some people who have worked together before and some who haven’t.

This may be because this mixture will create a team who:

  • are starting with some pre-existing relationships of trust which can be built on if handled well
  • are more flexible – there is likely to be an inherent tendency to question and cross fertilize idea’s

In order to get the most out of the team once you have selected the right members:

  1. Have some team values conversations – What do we want the work of this team to stand for?  What do we want to think when we look back on this team?
  2. Develop some behavioural agreements – How will we deal with conflict?  How will we give each other feedback? etc
  3. Have an attitude of acceptance  – working in a group inevitably involves some difficult moments
  4. Be curious – about both the newcomers (What are their strengths and interests? What are the triggers that can cause them problems?) and also those you have worked with before (Try not to assume that you know who they are and what they do best, see if you can see them afresh as you start this project together).

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