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Rethinking Teams Can Lead To a 39% Productivity Improvement, According To New i4cp Research

Seattle, Washington, May 29, 2024

Newly published research study, The Team Network Effect™: How Precision Collaboration Unleashes Productivity, explains why conventional thinking about teams is out of date, and often counterproductive to modern objectives and demands.

As business leaders seek to improve productivity through a return-to-office or adoption of GenAI, many overlook a critically important—and woefully dysfunctional—component of how most work gets done in organizations today: teams. Over the past decade or two, teams have become the primary means by which organizations generate value but only a small set of organizations have adapted how they are supporting work at this level to optimize productivity.

The latest research study by human capital research powerhouse i4cp provides an in-depth and fresh look at collaborative team practices and ways of working that distinguish the most productive teams today from others. And the results are stunning.

i4cp’s research, based on a global survey of more than 1,400 organizations revealed teams could increase productivity (on average) by a staggering 39%, if they improved collaboration. In-depth case studies revealed enormous payback from reimagining teams in this light—one organization projected a 54% impact on profitability by raising the effectiveness of their bottom quartile teams to average. Another realized $500 million in direct Financial impact over two years from helping teams improve geographic and cross-functional collaboration across teams in 89 countries.

The encouraging news is that organizations that close these performance gaps are not undertaking massive transformation efforts, but rather simply helping their teams work and collaborate more precisely.

Conventional approaches to team leadership and team development are faltering in this context; i4cp research shows that eight of 10 teams today drift into one or more dysfunctional patterns of collaboration that undercut team effectiveness and ultimately market performance.

Led by Rob Cross, Senior Vice President of Research at i4cp and Professor of Global Leadership, Babson College, along with Katheryn Brekken, Ph.D., i4cp Senior Research Analyst, this new global study applies network science to team effectiveness, and in the process debunks several common misunderstandings about modern collaboration. More importantly, the findings outline better ways to optimize team performance, unleash productivity, and drive business results.

The new research shows that:

  • The patterns of collaboration within teams matters – top quartile teams are distinguished by specific collaborative practices and ways of working internally to avoid drift into one or more dysfunctional patterns.
  • The quality of connections within teams is essential – the quality of connections in these networks is critical to performance; these connections can be architected into the 䐄ow of work to produce highly effective teams.
  • The external collaborations (within the organization) promote effectiveness and efficiency – top-performing teams connect into the organization’s ecosystem in six ways that enable them to derive benefits of scale that are often lost in transition to more agile ways of working.

The research found that there are precise practices which create quality networks that drive performance and engagement, and simple tools that can help any organization architect collaboration within and among teams that improve productivity and generate economic impact.

“Teams is one of the most studied topics out there. What we have found at i4cp is that by integrating research approaches focused on both human and social capital, we can provide truly groundbreaking results for our members that will help them drive higher-performance organizations,” said Kevin Oakes, CEO of i4cp and author of the bestselling book Culture Renovation®.

“In today’s hyper-connected world, we are all overwhelmed with collaboration and connections— inside and outside of work. What we have produced for HR and business leaders is a straightforward set of practices that teams can employ to rapidly drive team effectiveness and market performance. This starts with precisely architecting the way they are working together,” added Rob Cross, lead study researcher and bestselling author of The Microstress Effect and Beyond Collaboration Overload, and frequent Harvard Business Publishing contributor.

As the leading research firm dedicated to discovery and advancement of next practices in human capital, i4cp makes its full research available to its global community of HR and business leaders. In addition to access to the full study, members may also join an exclusive webinar with the research authors, Rob Cross and Katheryn Brekken, on June 26, 2024 at 10am PT/1pm ET.

An Executive Brief of the report is available to non-members, and non-member HR and Business leaders are invited to a dedicated Next Practices Weekly webinar on July 11, 2024 at 8am PT/11am ET to meet the authors for a preview of the study findings.

About i4cp

i4cp is the leading human capital research firm, trusted globally for its expertise in discovering and advancing next practices in human capital. As the industry’s most respected provider of HR research and culture advisory services, i4cp dives more deeply into human capital research than any other firm in the world. Engrained in i4cp’s charter is a vibrant community of human capital