There is a mystifying phenomenon that happens in many organisations - ‘the common sense paradox’. It refers to those decisions and actions that are in line with recognised business practices but that go against good common sense. For example, a trap we have all fallen into embodies this. Common sense might suggest that a Teams meeting with more than 4-5 people, and where there is no encouragement to turn on cameras, would embolden people to do other tasks while maintaining the pretence of being fully engaged. Yet we continue to convene meetings like this. With all the will (and willpower) in the world, humans are hardwired to find distractions when even moderately bored. Common sense might also suggest that there is a predictable afternoon slump of energy (physiology research supports this and after all who hasn’t taken a small nap in the afternoon on holiday?) and that this slump might get in the way of thoughtful work and good decision making. Meetings held in the post prandial slump are likely to feel unproductive and de-energising unless they are designed to disrupt our natural post lunch tendencies. Yet organise them we do..
It sometimes feels as though organisations remain caught up in a collective delusion that all of these common sensical notions don’t serve business and can be ‘managed’ out of the system. Although as a manager used to tell me “common sense is not so common”.
That is why we were completely thrilled to come across a supremely common sensical idea that has been rigorously analysed and researched. It also chimes with our own discoveries about successful groups. A research article in the American Accounting Association’s journal ‘The Accounting Review’[i] showed something that we have intuitively known all along. The research showed that when a team included a connector, the team members (even those prone to individualistic behaviour) are more likely to share their ideas with each other. The presence of a connector actually improves the team’s creativity.
Of course, there has been much written about team composition but this is BIG: connectors are gold dust to those teams that need to be innovative. They are not just the friendly, nice-to-have members of the team, but rather the royal jelly needed to help the team thrive. Connectors are empathic, warm, engaging and bridge-building and, most importantly, they provide the containing environment for others to thrive.
How does this link to the ‘common sense paradox’? Most teams are assembled with an orientation towards technical capability and being able to get things done. Rarely are teams designed around the connector. Perhaps this is where good team design should begin. To do this well, leaders of teams need to combine both the art and the science of team design. The useful time spent up-front planning and committing to the scientific principles (the who, the size to task, the frequency) and then adding the art (opportunities for connection, team rituals and belonging) is not only efficient but also good old common sense.
 (Research Article, January 1st 2024: Connectors: a Catalyst for Team Creativity: Autrey, R, Drasgow, F; Jackson, K; Klevsky, E)