6 Principles for team performance
The America’s Cup puts talent, technology, fitness and team flow in the spotlight. This is complex team performance. Perhaps, we might apply these lessons in the workplace.
At speeds over 70km per hour, surfing razor-like margins on space-age technology, the challenge to each team is intense. Mastering the new generation boats is a testing learning curve. Teams now complete races 100% on their foils. No doubt these teams are matching the challenge with masterful skills. By definition they are operating deep in the flow zone.
Error, whether random gusts or tiny misjudgement, is catastrophic. Watch Emirates Team NZ pitch at the start or Nathan Outteridge skidding into the drink. Success demands that the team, coordinate to match their skills moment by moment as the challenges present.
It is exhilarating to watch. These teams are adding to what we already know about high performing teams. Here are some lessons in team flow we might reflect upon.
1. Creative ferocity
The boats press the edge of technology. Multidisciplinary teams collaborate from around the world innovate, test and deliver. It does not stop there. Team NZ had to reconstruct a functional rig overnight after destroying two in one day. Imagine what Oracle must have done to go from 8:1 down to win the 2013 Cup?
2. Deliberate practice
Sailing these boats is super difficult. Notice how the sailing has improved – even in the two weeks of racing. Thousands of hours have gone into learning how to master hundreds of specific manoeuvres in every possible condition.
3. Relentless optimism
Someone must lose and there will always be setbacks. Notice how consistently calm, measured and upbeat the teams remain. During the catastrophic pitch of Team NZ, Burling was calmly taking care of the crew’s safety. How did Spithill maintain his confidence at 8:1 down in 2013?
The physical excellence of these teams is stunning. Fitness, nutrition, agility, rested and focused effort come together. The creative application of cycling to the grinding out of hydraulic pressure is a new innovation being assessed. Training disciplines are well locked down with expert support.
5. Team communication
Commentators noted the relative quiet of Team NZ against Artemis. While Artemis chatters and commands continuously, Team NZ says almost nothing – appearing to operate on intuition. Either way we see the Google and MIT conclusions of short burst dialogue. What I notice is intuitive synchronised movement.
6. Goal commitment
Put all of this together over a four year campaign. Engineering, strategy, tactics, teamwork and a massive investment of capital and time. The degree of commitment to an extended team performance is deep and relentless. And they keep coming back for more!
Good luck Emirates Team New Zealand. Bring on the team flow.