Know How Talk Thu NOON: Daniel Wilson, Extreme Team Performance

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Scott Underwood

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Sep 18, 2007, 11:40:20 AM9/18/07
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Know How Talk
Thu, 9/20/07 12:00 pm
IDEO Cafe*
Open to friends and family

Daniel Wilson, Harvard Project Zero, Harvard Graduate School of Education

Extreme Team Performance: What organizations can learn from adventure racing teams. Little empirical evidence is known about how teams perform when facing conditions of extreme uncertainty. Daniel’s recent work examined the learning and leadership behaviors in expeditionary adventure racing teams – co-ed teams of four athletes that race together across 400-600 miles of unfamiliar terrain in a nonstop, multidisciplinary format (hiking, biking, climbing, rafting, etc).

Through team surveys, interviews with racers, and close observation of video tape shot during races, the research found that when lost and facing doubt, higher performing teams:
1) exhibited more conditional language,
2) displayed higher levels of connectivity in team interactions,
3) reported more role redundancies in key operational functions,
4) had higher levels of team role congruency, and
5) demonstrated more flexible and distributed leadership roles among members.

The study suggests that other teams that perform in highly uncertain contexts may increase their effectiveness by fostering more mindful interactions, adopting a functional model of leadership, and proactively disclosing vulnerability as members perform together.

Dr. Daniel Gray Wilson is a Research Director at Harvard Project Zero and current leads the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Learning Innovations Laboratory (LILA). LILA facilitates cross-organizational learning on challenges of innovation, knowledge creation and collaboration and currently involves leaders from a fifteen global organizations such as the YMCA, McDonalds, Pfizer, MTV, Pfizer, Walt Disney and the World Bank. Over the past fourteen years at Project Zero, Daniel’s research has focused on how to teach and learn for deeper understanding in a variety of contexts ranging from K-12 schools across the US, midlevel managers in Colombia, to professional athletic teams. His research has examined informal learning and leadership practices in the workplace, which led to the co-authored book Learning at Work (2005). For the past three-years he has been working with adventure racing teams to understand how these “extreme teams” adaptively learn to perform in high-risk and uncertain environments. He is also a musician and plays drums and percussion in a Boston-based band.

Upcoming Know How Talks
# 9/20/07: 5:00 Merlin Mann, 43 Folders, organization and life hacking
# 9/27/07: Shawn Lani, senior resident artist, Exploratorium
# 10/04/07: Tina Seelig, Stanford Technology Ventures Program, OpenFloodgate
# 10/09/07: Tue Peter Madden, Forum for the Future
# 10/17/07: Wed Jim Mueller, the Wireless RERC (Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center for Wireless Technologies), universal design
# 10/22/07: Mon Ezio Manzini, sustainable design
# 11/01/07: Satjiv Chahil, SVP, HP's Global Marketing Personal Systems Group
# 11/15/07: Geoff Davis, Unitus, increasing access to microfinance
# 11/22/07: Thanksgiving
# 11/29/07: tbd
# 12/06/07: tbd
# 12/13/07: Jim Fruchterman, founder of Benetech, Technology for Humanity, disability access


*IDEO's Know How Talks are held in our Palo Alto offices on Thursdays at 5:00,
unless they're not. The venue is usually our cafe next to our lobby at 100 Forest.
Enter from the alley between Alma St and High St.

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-Scott Underwood
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