Teamwork and Minimalism - Can They Really Go Together?
What actually is Teamwork, and what is Minimalism?
It’s a tricky one. Minimalism with the meaning staying the same, will be interpreted by each person differently. For some, a minimalist approach towards teamwork will mean more teamwork. It will mean greater brainstorming and working lunches, open desk spaces at the office and team building exercises. To these people, human interaction allows their productivity to spike, and be given that all important creativity boost.
However this isn’t for everyone.
There are those who would interpret minimalism as keeping socialisation to the bare minimum. Elevator talk, and coffee chat. That’s it. This is not a conscious decision that they dislike company, but actually how some are hard wired to revel in the empty room. They flourish in solitude and alone time and their achievements happen in quiet moments of contemplation, rather than at team brunches.
The Power of Introverts
Susan Cain, the brain behind the Quiet Revolution, gave a compelling TED talk in 2012 entitled ‘The power of introverts’, which after 18 million views is fair to say got some coverage.
In it, she makes her case for the introvert,and asks how is it, that we’ve managed to change work culture to be an extrovert focused space, with remenises of the 90’s cabin boxes of capitalism as just a silly phase that capitalism went through?
All whilst having the knowledge that countless successful people such as Elon Musk (according his father), Warren Buffett and Rosa Parks all relied on the quiet space.
Extroverts have been able to get away with making the decisions that greater communication everyday is the best way to boost productivity, happiness and efficiency.
Not because that is the best result for everyone, but it’s the best route for some.
People, there is no one rule to rule them all
Spot the tone difference.
“They’re so introverted, wow.” “Wow, they’re so extroverted.”
From childhood, society teaches us to value teamwork, and to place importance on networking in order to succeed. But success often comes from our own thought processes, taken by ourselves in quiet moments of contemplation than it does at networking events. So the question remains, do we even value introversion?
But do we even know the real meanings of these two terms, or have they, like many a word become caught up in pop culture so much they’ve lost their true meaning? The Myers & Briggs foundation (yes, from the MBTI test) explains the difference between extroversion and introversion as attitudes that people use to direct their energy. It’s not a trait that is absolute, no one is completely one or the other, we all spend time doing both. One directs their energy from active involvement, whereas quiet time is not their favourite thing to do, whilst the other recharges from actively thinking, and understanding the world to their own understanding.
But from a psychological standpoint, it’s useful to understand that our choices towards the indicators that are used in personality groupings are all preferences we have as people. They can vary through life experiences and assertiveness as we get older.
Practical Advice to leaders
In a leadership position, you have the choice whether to create a team masterpiece or a mess through your approach to teamwork. Taking into account that introverts and extroverts need a different kind of stimulation, this is another layer of working out how best to get the most out of your team.
Usually, there isn’t really much you can do about the size of your team, and extroverts and introverts alike will just have to deal with whatever they’ve signed up for. However, taking in your team size to account can allow you when you’re in a leadership position to plan better.
If you have a large team, consider planning team building exercises alternately for extroverts and introverts. For instance, if the last company team building was an outdoor activity center, try considering the next event to be something less outdoorsy, such as a poetry reading, or a film screening.
By catering to the comfort levels of both introverts and extroverts you will be able to boost teamwork in a more efficient way.
Leadership style is of course down to the individual. And depending on whether you yourself are more introverted or extroverted will depend on how you relate to your team. But you can look into understanding your team better by completing tests such as MBTI and reading up on what actions they will react best to.
Let’s give an example.
Say the manager of a marketing departments identifies as an ENFP (in MBTI), this means they identify most with extraversion, intuition, feeling and perception. They will be likely to process information in an empathetic way, and look for the reasons behind people’s emotions and actions.
Whereas, an employee who resonates with being an INTJ - introversion, intuition, thinking and judgement will be the main lenses through which they see the world. An employee of this kind will be most likely to solve problems by looking for the most logical of paths, not taking into regard abstract thinking as much as others might, but finding truly the most logical solution.
In work environments open-plan offices, and glass walls dominate the architecture, and alone time is hard to find. Time alone to work can be greatly distracting for some, but invaluable for others, depending on how they focus best.
Some (like this writer) will find that strangers eyes and a busy buzz of a coffee shop will produce creativity and allow them to think more creatively than a quiet office space. Remember to take these factors into account, and if you find that productivity is higher when some team members consciously take time to themselves, try to think of a solution together to harness that creativity without having group brainstorming sessions.
Forced fun does not result in fun for everyone. Some need a little kick to be able to truly enjoy themselves, whilst some fear the facebook event invite. Again, this can be greatly down to introversion or extraversion, and should be the main reason why non-optional events should be scaled back to a minimum.
Yes, teamwork and minimalism can go together, as minimalism means that you enhance the stuff that brings you the most value, whilst binning the useless stuff.
For people more introverted, that means scrapping some of the group work, and for extroverted people, vice versa.
There is no one rule to rule them all.
Think about the stuff that influences introvert success, just as much as extrovert success. You need both to be truly successful.