Discover Bioteams via Experiential Learning
What is the best way to introduce bioteaming into any organization or network? I recommend an Experiential Learning approach which allows you to evolve your own unique take on bioteaming which takes full advantage of the hidden learning and experiences you and your organization already have about 'natural teams'.
Experiential Learning is a powerful approach to experiential learning which allows you to constantly test and refine new ideas in the light of existing mental models - it is an ideal way to learn and experience bioteams!
I have developed a web-based bioteams implementation roadmap you can use to get you started based on Kolb's well respected learning cycle. You can move forwards and backwards through the 4 stages with the space bar and arrow keys. At each stage you can click through to a relevant tool or paper on the blog.
For an excellent introduction to Kolb checkout this interactive flash tutorial developed by Clara Davies and Tony Lowe from the University of Leeds, UK.
The idea is that you do this both as an individual and a team - to make sure you incorporate the full collective intelligence of your team mates. For simplicity I have just included 5 key links - there are many more you could add - please feel free to do so.
You have already identified a number of problems and opportunities in the way you "do teams" in your organization and you want to explore how bioteams might help with these.
Stage 1 - CONCRETE EXPERIENCE.
I contend that bioteaming is a natural thing and that top teams naturally use bioteaming principles but under different names (the Bioteams book gives extensive examples). Therefore the best start point is to begin by uncovering your own hidden bioteam knowledge before you even look at the detailed theory.
Two excellent techniques are included to help you with this - the Sports Teams and Bioteams exercise and the Team Pressure Cooker Exercise. Make sure you document your conclusions as a team. A wiki would be a great place to do this. You are looking for one-liners and bullet points here not essays - that's why I suggest a lightweight tool like a wiki as opposed to a shared document workspace.
Stage 2 - REFLECTIVE OBSERVATION
You can now start examining some of the Beliefs you and your colleagues hold about teams. Again make sure you capture your conclusions.
Stage 3 - ABSTRACT CONCEPTUALIZATION
Its only now where I suggest you actually start looking at the bioteams theory in detail. You should focus initially on the 4 key principles, the four "zones" and the twelve "rules". As you study the material its useful if you can categorise it into three sections:
1. I understand, this fits with my own experience - this is an immediately priority for my team(s)
2. I understand, this fits with my own experience - but not an immediately priority for my team(s)
3. I don't understand or it does not fit with my experience - we need to discuss further
This should lead into a good team discussion where you agree as a team what the priorities are for your bioteaming implementation.
Stage 4 - ACTIVE EXPERIMENTATION
You are now ready to start some practical pilot implementations. This is also a good point to introduce the bioteams web-based instant assessment tool. This is a good point to summarise all you have captured so far into a document (not more than 10 pages) of the key aspects of bioteaming from your own experience.
Your document plus the Bioteams book constitute the Bioteaming approach uniquely tailored for your organization and teams. This will be your roadmap which you will test and refine this constantly as you begin a new cycle of piloting, experimentation, training and learning.
Many Thanks to Geoff Cox of RSVP Design for correcting some confusion in an earlier version of this article between the terms ACTION LEARNING and EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING.
About the Author
Ken Thompson is an expert practitioner in the area of bioteaming, swarming, virtual enterprise networks, virtual professional communities and virtual teams and has published two landmark books:
Bioteams: High Performance Teams Based on Nature's Best Designs
The Networked Enterprise: Competing for the future through Virtual Enterprise Networks
Ken writes the highly popular bioteams blog which has over 500 articles on all aspects of bioteams (aka organizational biomimicry) - in other words how human groups can learn from nature's best teams.
Ken is also founder of an exciting European technology company Swarmteams which provides unique patent-pending bioteaming technologies for all shapes and sizes of groups, social networks, business clusters, virtual/mobile communities and enterprises. Swarmteams enables groups to be more response and agile by fully integrating their mobile phones and the web with bioteam working techniques. The latest Swarmteams implementation is SwarmTribes which helps musicians and bands form a unique collaboration with their fans for mutual benefit.
Bioteams Books Reviews
Belbin sees Bioteams as the next step. Dr R Meredith Belbin, regarded as the father of "team-role" theory and one of the worlds foremost experts on teams predicts that we will evolve into bioteam forms. In his book "The Coming Shape of Organisation" Belbin picks out five observations human teams need to learn from "a diminutive masterclass" of social insects such as bees, ants and termites.