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The Firefly Effect
Build Teams that Capture Creativity and Catapult Results

By: Kimberly Douglas

Summary by Tyler Lacoma, Business Book Summaries

Business Book SummariesToday's business teams often struggle with piling workloads and the heavy expectations of companies who are after the perfect team, the synergy that will solve all their problems. The managers and leaders of such teams experience struggles of their own, burdened with dozens of different team philosophies and countless workshops offering ideal bonding activities. The options can be overwhelming.

But natural, organic teams are like children gathering to hunt fireflies. They are all clear on their goal (to catch fireflies!), they constantly try new tactics and ideas to reach that goal, and they don't need a dominant leader to give them constant direction. In The Firefly Effect Kimberly Douglas explains how business teams can function the same way, learning to produce creative and satisfying results. All it takes is a little motivation and leader who knows how to inspire. 

Even though team leaders should lead through example and avoid domineering methods, their decisions are important. It is up to the leader to create an environment of acceptance and positive reinforcement where ideas from all team members are encouraged. The best solutions and sources of team energy can be found in some of the most unlikely people, often those who may not even feel they have much to offer themselves. This is the "Red quadrant," named for the category of the Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument populated by passionate and empathetic personalities. Leaders can harness the power of such creative and energetic people by developing a system of trust and accountability between team members. Criticism is great-as long as it is positive and helps bridge the gap between different team perspectives. 

When the Red quadrant has been brought fully onboard the team can begin diagnosing problems and looking for solutions. The team leader must set firm ground rules for conflict and resolution to help the team overcome any difficulties during this process. Issues should be dealt with by the entire team, and actions should be based in the principles on which the team was begun. 

Instead of looking at conflict as dangerous or avoidable, skilled leaders should foster a view of conflict as "creative abrasion," a positive force that should be expected and used for the good of the team. To create this mentality, a leader should be willing to acknowledge conflict when it occurs and be able to discuss it with the entire team. Plans of action should be created and put into practice immediately. Sometimes the leader needs to take a coaching role with a particular team member-and sometimes the leader needs to alter the way they act themselves! No matter what scenario, it is important to remember that creative abrasion always furthers the aims of the entire team. 

If teams are in charge of creating large plans, or are meeting for the first time, strategic planning sessions may be the best way to draw out the creative energy of the group. These meetings first introduce the mission which the team has been given, followed by the vision for success, or what the company will look like when the team has realized its goals. The team can work together to form key milestones which serve as measurements of how far they are to reaching the vision for success. Creating guiding principles to serve as the foundation of how team members will interact and produce results is also a vital step in these sessions. 

Once team energy begins to flow, the key is to keep the process going. Introducing fun games to keep the team stimulated and trusting one another is always a good idea, as are field trips and get-togethers to celebrate success. Successful brainstorming techniques differ from team to team, so leaders should never be afraid to experiment with other activities as they learn how their own team can become a firefly hunt.

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