Tool no. 2 - Team Working Styles

Four complementary roles for creative teams

Tool Purpose

  • Facilitating effective teamwork means ensuring that each team member contributes fully and appropriately.
  • This may necessitate acknowledging each individual's preferred cognitive style, or most effective way of working.

Tool Context

  • Citing Francis Galton's anecdote about how average guess of a pig's weight at a fairground was accurate, James Surowiecki has claimed how crowds can 'know' more than individual experts.
  • But crowds are not teams (c.f. smartmobs), therefore some managerial understanding of how 'cognitive types' interact is important.
  • According to some research, adaptors do not get on with innovators (Kirton, 1980)

Tool Process

  • Is it dependent upon other tools (co-usage)?
  • What would my client actually have to do in order to make this work? (e.g. list of instructions)
  • Context/conditions for use

Tool Example

  • We selected Four Teams, each of which was assigned a different methodological and/or cognitive role.
  • Each team worked in one of four distinctly different organisational styles.

JW Fig 2 3D T.jpg

Figure 1: An autopoietic team.

By mapping the four styles as a tetrahedron (see Figure 2) we were then able to identify their six relations as follows:

JW Table 2015

Table 1

1. New knowing coordinated by Mathilda Tham
2. Envisioning coordinated by John Backwell
3. Languaging coordinated by Anette Lundebye
4. Pushing and Doing coordinated by Hannah Jones

The Action Styles
  • These range from the highly intuitive, spontaneous and somatic to the analytical, critical, and deliberate.
  • Each operates as an active agent that complements each of the other three.
  • The system also reflects four levels of complexity that are embodied within their characteristic roles.
  • The roles are specifications for the four semi-autonomous, non-hierarchical groups.
  • They enable specific behaviours and roles to facilitate creative exchange at different levels of ‘knowing’ and ‘doing’.
  • They also represent 4 arbitrary levels at which synergies can be harnessed in different ways.
  • Where, for example, the ‘Pushing and Doing’ group might explore the synergies of, say, engineering systems that regulate energy usage
  • The ‘Envisioning’ group is likely to interrogate the way that an organisation’s ‘brand values’ are re-imagined and shared within the organisation.
  • Where the ‘New Knowing’ group might explore the less intangible synergies of, say, the atmosphere of a room in terms of its interior design, the ‘Languaging’ group may monitor and facilitate the values, terms, and conditions within which communication and transactions are conducted.
  • Acknowledging the links between the groups ensures that six relations and twelve perspectives are considered within the whole system.
  • In order to ensure that this process is effective at the political, practical, managerial, economic, and ecological levels, we will invite relevant viewpoints from experts in design education, co-design, co-authorship (c.f. Nieuwenhuijze & Wood, 2005), design management (e.g. Cooper & Press, 1995), design theory, design research, complexity theory (c.f. Waldrop, 1992; Stacey, 2001), knowledge ecology (Star, 1995), wisdom ecology (Philogene & Wood, 2002).

Team consciousness

Our team tool approach used four virtual roles that interact with one another to establish six interdependent relations. Together, they are intended to operate as a training model that simulates a 'living' autopoietic system. Designing the team as a cellular system meant looking for four roles that would be sufficiently useful when working interdependently. There should be the requisite level of diversity within the team and the ability of the participants to regulate the system without a permanent leader, either from within, or from the outside (c.f. Ashby 1956). Together, each should be able to play its part so that the whole team would manage its survival.


  • Ken Fairclough introduced the idea of tribal dialects to us.
  • This grew from his practice, inspired by Herrmann's brain dominance tool.
  • It identifies four types, or styles, of the many used for thinking and communicating.
  • People sometimes misunderstand, mistrust, or even dismiss unfamiliar cognitive styles in others.
  • Ken therefore framed these styles as 'tribal dialects'.

G4 - Conceptual
G3 - Emotional
G2 - Process oriented
G1 - Analytical

  • The idea of group thinking or collective intelligence (e.g. see CI Group in Denmark) also reminds us that individual intelligence may be no less important than how we work together.
  • Katharine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers (Myers-Briggs) sought to prioritize Jung's 8 cognitive 'functions' - i.e. processes by which we deal with the world (Jung, 1921)
  • They believed that individuals have different ‘orientation’ attitudes (introverted or extraverted)
  • These dictate which function a person shows (i.e. extraverts) to the world.
  • This doubled the eight Jungian functions to sixteen Myers-Briggs 'types'.
  • Meredith Belbin (1986) identified 9 work roles needed in a successful business team:
    • 1. a similarity between the personal qualities of the person leading the team and the typical characteristics of the co-ordinator team role
    • 2. the presence of one strong plant (i.e. 'creative person')
    • 3. a reasonable spread of mental abilities
    • 4. wide coverage of all team roles
    • 5. a good match between functional role and team role characteristics
    • 6. awareness by team members of the various team roles
  • Belbin claims that an effective team should include nine key roles (that may not correspond to work-related roles):

1. co-ordinator
2. team worker
3. plant ('creative')
4. monitor-evaluator
5. implementer
6. completer-finisher
7. shaper
8. resource-investigator
9. specialist


  • Adizes, I., (2004), Management/Mismanagement Styles: How to Identify a Style and What to Do about It, The Adizes Institute Publications,
  • Belbin, R.M. (1996) Management teams: Why they succeed or fail. (2nd Edition published in 2003) Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann
  • Jung, C.G. 1921 (1971). Psychological Types, Collected Works, Volume 6, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-01813-8.
  • Kirton, M., (1980), Adaptors and Innovators in Organizations, Human Relations, Vol. 33, No. 4, 213-224 (1980)
  • Mintzberg, H., (1983), Structures in Fives. Designing Effective Organisations, Prentice Hall International
  • Myers, Isabel Briggs (1980). Gifts Differing: Understanding Personality Type. Davies-Black Publishing; Reprint edition (May 1, 1995). ISBN 0-89106-074-X
  • Skeptics Dictionary - Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

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