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Seven lessons from science to create a high performing team

On a sunny Edinburgh day Alan Furlong was a guest speak at the Agile Scotland spring event. Alan is a former senior HR professional, two times successful entrepreneur and a passionate advocate for the people aspects of digital transformation.  At Radtac he uses his wealth of experience and authentic people skills to accelerate our transformations.


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Radtac are about more than providing Agile frameworks, training and consultancy.  We are all about mindset, psychological safety at work and creating an empowered culture. 


Today’s talk discussed the science behind creating high performing teams.  To set the scene Alan explained that we are swimming around ‘water’ called culture (a set of conscious and unconscious behaviours) and that we are all affected by culture whether we realise it or not. 


Alan discussed how to create a shift at the team level specifically.  Stark elements that resonated with the audience were how Alan talked around our knowledge on what motivates us and how this has evolved over time.  Describing that science has proven Maslow’s law is outdated and our primal driver is very different than first documented and as a consequence, most of the tools we use to develop teams are fundamentally flawed.


Alan shared just seven simple ways to improve any team and it was fantastic how he brought the subject matter to life.  Examples of this include ‘If you’re grumpy, we are all grumpy’.  We see this manifested by the emotional contagiousness nature of the workplace and how senior management impact everyone in the organisation including the teams.  A fascinating fact we learned is the importance of positive emotion, this releases a hormone called oxytocin that makes us feel better, increases engagement levels and resilience.  


He showed that Dan Pink and Adam Grants’ views that there has to be a meaning and purpose to our lives and work is essential to higher engagement and that autonomy alone is not enough. We also need certainty and the way to manage that paradox is to create ‘bounded autonomy’.


There was a moment of magic when Alan described the importance of fairness and even a few knowing chuckles emanated from the audience.  If you are not treated with fairness, it does not take long for a toxic environment to grow and spiral out of control.


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Alan shared the relatively unknown science of social physics, a way to use big data to see and sometimes predict how changes take place in social systems (like organisations or cities).  Drawing on 22 years of experience and a variety of scientific disciplines he made the simple observation that a top down approach to organisational change rarely, if ever works; especially when legacy behaviours are not dealt with appropriately.  The way forward to successful, lasting organisational change is to take a viral approach.


The final point he shared was that great teams are a crucial aspect of great organisations, yet we struggle to understand how to take the benefits of highly engaged teams and scale them across the whole organisation, simply because our models for change are so flawed.


To learn more about the talk, or on the work Radtac is doing get in touch with us by completing the contact form below and we will be in touch within 24hrs. 


Rod Morrison

Rod Morrison

Rod brings strong leadership and analytical experience into his role as an Engagement Lead. Rod is a former Army Officer with a background in Government strategic-level intelligence, Geospatial analysis and more recently law enforcement. He is excited to engage with clients, teams and individuals to adopt the Agile mindset and not only deliver an excellent service but to add value. Rod is proud to be involved with Radtac and part of the team ethos. Read more