Today, enterprises face complex problems for which business resiliency and company growth are dependent on innovative solutions. In this article, successful entrepreneur Adam Ferrari explains how a unified team can solve complicated business problems with diverse backgrounds and how T-shaped skills and a Jigsaw strategy can help.
Innovation is critical to your company. It is the process whereby your teams conceive new products, creative services, and better ways of doing things. Innovation is also the process by which you can solve your most challenging business problems. Without innovative ideas, your business will stagnate as competitors leave you behind.
To create a unified problem-solving team does not mean that everyone on the team is the same. Diversity among the team members is crucial and a strength that can help companies make better decisions and be more productive and innovative.
A diverse workforce inherently provides new perspectives and distinct experiences—the fuel of innovation. Business leaders that see diversity and unity as incompatible opposites are missing an important principle—your business teams can never achieve unity by ignoring and isolating members of your team who seem to be different.
Unity, when problem-solving, is undoubtedly a desirable and achievable goal, but it should not be subtractive in that we disregard the significance of our differences. Unity should always be additive as we strive to understand, appreciate, and integrate diverse skills, life experiences, and points of view.
What do unity, diversity, and innovation have to do with T-shapes and Jigsaws? Everything. Let’s unpack these ideas and see how they work together.
You can best understand and teach others the concept of T-shaped skills by visualizing a large capital letter “T.” The vertical aspect of the shape represents an employee’s or job candidate’s core strengths—the skills and abilities for which you hired or are considering them. If you’re trying to hire a computer programmer, for example, the vertical part of the T represents their ability to write code. You’ll want someone with the knowledge and experience needed to do their job, but don’t stop there.
The horizontal part of the letter T in our metaphor represents the candidate’s ability to collaborate across disciplines, communicate, and work well with others. Our hypothetical programmer could be a whiz at coding. Still, if they cannot accept input from other team members, engage in critical thinking, and express their ideas clearly, they might not contribute to the innovation you need.
When creating a problem-solving group in which innovation can flourish, the final component is deploying a cooperative method called a Jigsaw strategy. Like pieces of a puzzle, each one is necessary. The team needs input from diverse perspectives. This strategy enables team members to contribute their core strengths (the vertical part of their T-shaped skills) to help find a solution to a business problem.
Within Jigsaw teams, members rely on their collaboration and communication abilities (the horizontal part of their T-shaped skills) to determine how their core strengths can contribute to an innovative solution. Our programmer can see solutions that team members from other departments with other core strengths could never envision. And likewise, the other team members will offer different valuable ideas.
As a business leader, your job is to see over the horizon and identify potential problems. As you do, suppress the temptation to prescribe a solution single-handedly. Instead, assemble Jigsaw teams composed of a diverse set of employees that have demonstrated solid T-shaped skills. This group will deliver possible solutions that you could not formulate alone.
Adam Ferrari was born and raised in the south suburbs of Chicago, IL. He is the grandson of an Italian immigrant coal miner who worked in the mines of Coal City, IL. From an early age, Adam was taught the value and dignity achieved through a hard day’s work. The oil and gas industry provides good-paying jobs for millions of blue-collar men and women across America. This is one of many reasons Adam and his company, Ferrari Energy, are such staunch supporters of the oil and gas industry. Blue-collar men and women built America, and the modern oil and gas industry keeps America moving forward.