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How to Get The Best Ideas From Your Team AND Your Expanded Team Part I

People with different experiences and backgrounds see things differently. These include differences in age, gender, race, occupation, and anything else that makes us different from one another. Ben Franklin’s junto was made up of twelve individuals, and included three from the field of printing, a scrivener who loved poetry and natural history, a glazier who was also a mathematician and inventor, two surveyors, one of whom was a cobbler and astrologer, a cabinetmaker, and a gentleman who provided a large library. They all provided a different angle on how to improve society and pursue truth. Their inventions are legendary. They invented the concept of hospitals, fire brigades, lending libraries, and many other innovations.

When you have sufficient diversity on your team, you increase the variety of ideas and perspectives, and broaden the discussion.  As a result, you are more likely to be thorough, and develop a comprehensive solution to a problem. Whether you are a team of ten participating in a brainstorming session, or an expanded team of 10,000 contributing ideas—seek diversity.

A less-talked-about type of diversity is in the types of intelligence each of us possesses. Most of us have learned that intelligence is an either—or thing. Either I am smart or not. Or, my intelligence is lower than average, average, or above average. Using the IQ test as the sole measure, President Nixon measured higher than President Kennedy—but is that all there is to it? Should we conclude that Nixon was smarter? IQ tests claim to measure intelligence and put us all on a numerical scale. The test and its results have been used to classify us for decades, and has gained wide acceptance. But the IQ number only tells part of the story of intelligence.

In 1983, Professor Howard Gardner at Harvard University published his theory of multiple intelligences. Gardner’s view is broader than the IQ test. It seems to be more useful, cover more ground, and tell us more about ourselves. Since 1983, he has published several follow-on books which carry the Theory of Multiple Intelligences further.  At the beginning of 2012, there are a reported nine different intelligences (Wikipedia 2012), they are:

  1. Logical – Mathematical
  2. Spatial
  3. Linguistic
  4. Bodily – Kinesthetic
  5. Musical
  6. Interpersonal
  7. Intrapersonal
  8. Naturalistic
  9. Existential

On which of these would you rate yourself high or low?  Look for clues. There are also instruments available for more precision. A Board of Directors at a successful corporation is often recruited and assembled as if they are looking for this type of diversity.  Look around at your current team—whether you are a team member or its leader. During an important meeting or teleconference do you take time to explore the different perspectives? Does your team rush to judgment when a little more discussion would make sense? Successful teams do take the time, and they make better decisions.

Thomas Charles Belanger is the author of Teamwork in Ten Days: Building Successful Teams in the Arts, Sports, Business, and Government, available at and Barnes and Noble.

Part II of this article will cover Brainstorming and Crowdsourcing.

©2012, Thomas Belanger