“No one on the planet knows how to build a computer mouse,” author Matt Ridley once said. There’s just too much to know, too much to learn. Success today is all about teamwork.

Yet, the average team achieves only 63% of their strategic objectives, according to Harvard Business Review.

What to do? Stanford researchers found: for breakthrough results, harmony isn’t the recipe. Fighting is. Under one condition: the fight has to be constructive.

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Teach your team to have a good fight:

  • Why do we exist? Ensure everybody in the team knows the answer (if in doubt: do the blank-sheet test. Ask everybody to write down, in confidence, the shared team goals)
  • Take the emotions out. Passion is good. But it’s hard to argue emotions – sometimes even impossible. Your trick as a team leader is to push for the facts.
  • Play out the options. For complex problems, have different people work on alternative solutions.
  • Balance the power. If some people are dominating the debate, it’s not their fault – it’s the leader’s oversight. Power balance is key. As the leader, bring all voices in.
  • Agree to disagree. Don’t try to find consensus if there isn’t any. Teach your team to value disagreement – and live with it.
  • Have a laugh. Make sure people can still say ‘working in this team is fun’.

(From my longer Marketing Week column).