Here’s a look at three interesting stories currently in the news with ramifications for your team’s productivity.
1. The problems with group brainstorming
Group brainstorming sessions don’t work as well as you might assume they do, writes Claire Karjalainen in this interesting piece for Trello. In fact, she notes that an analysis of 241 different studies found that the presence of others had barely any effect on task performance at all – and even impairs higher level work like creative thought. Karjalainen theorizes that that’s partly because it’s harder to be free with ideas in a group because there’s a natural tendency to worry about what other people think of us; because people don’t try as hard as they would if they had to do the work alone; and because of a tendency to regress to the mean (i.e., more talented people with stronger ideas tend to want to match the performance level of everyone else). But if you still want to harness the power of working in groups, she suggests first letting people come up with ideas on their own, designating a facilitator or decider, and using a structure that focuses them in the exact spots where you want their attention.
2. We leave hundreds of millions of our vacation days unused each year
American workers are leaving hundreds of millions of vacation days unused each year, according to a new study from Project Time Off. The study also found that while nine in 10 managers say that they encourage their staff to take time off (and what’s going on with that other 10 percent?), 56% of employees report hearing nothing, negative messages, or mixed messages about whether they should really take time off. If your company is really serious about getting people to use their time off, they could follow the lead of the U.S. Travel Association, which offers a $500 stipend to every employee who used up all their annual leave – and found the portion of employees who did so jumped from 19% to 91% in just one year as a result.
3. What accountability really means
Most managers say the right things when it comes to accountability, but actually creating a culture of accountability on a team or in organization can be a lot harder. We like the accountability formula in this Harvard Business Review article, which suggests “thinking of accountability as a dial. You start at the low end, and then turn up the dial if necessary.” The first step is naming the problematic behaviors informally and in real time. The second is inviting the employee to connect the dots and see a pattern in their behavior. The third is a conversation where you ask questions that guide people to see the pattern at work in their lives and how it’s impacting people around them. (The last two steps are more serious performance consequences, but aren’t as likely to need to be used if you follow the first three steps.)