by Alist

5 Things that help small teams succeed where large teams struggle

I had the real pleasure this weekend past of working with team Kicks! at the Startup Weekend Creative Technology hosted by QUT. Anyone that's been to a startup weekend knows that the clock is king. Precious little time to move an entire business idea out of our heads and into the real world.

It struck me that in the top five teams (ours included!) there were 2 teams of 3 participants, and one of 4 participants. In an environment with extreme time and resource constraints, having a large team of 7+ would seem like an unfair advantage. Yet I don't think the results were a fluke. How were we able to outperform a larger team with more hands and feet?

These are the 5 things that made our small team a success in every way.

- Team fun = Team work

Psychology tells us that happiness and difficulty are like matter/anti-matter. So the more fun, happy times you have with your team, the more resilient you are when the going gets tough.

I know that we actually did work super late into the night, but what I remember is all of us humming and singing to the great music. I know there was intense pressure to wrap up our pitch in time, but I remember the elation of our team being recognized for our hard work. The entire emotional roller coaster just seems to have been mostly down-hill. When the challenges hit, we had the emotional energy to keep spirits and performance at a high level.

- Personal growth

If you don't know Startup weekends, then the participants are generally slotted into 3 work categories; Hustlers, Hipsters and Hackers. Even though our team of 3 was ostensibly all Hustlers, we pulled up our own capabilities and stretched out of any pigeonhole to cover all of the work that needed to be done.

A bit of advice, help and encouragement from each other and we found all the things we really needed were at hand. This was well summed up by by the phrase: "It's not a lack of resources, it's a lack of resourcefulness."

- Everyone contributed

In a small team, you cannot be an outlier, you have to put your thoughts and ideas into the ring. All of our perspectives were heard and balanced and this gave us a great advantage as diverse approaches to some of our most complex problems really helped out.

Diversity of knowledge and approaches is so incredibly important, I learned more little tips and tricks from my teammates this weekend than I had all month!
Thanks :)

- Shared vision

Having a team goal was SUPER important. That doesn't mean our project didn't change. In fact, it did a lot. But we were all able to stay on the same page. Stay together mentally as a team about where we were going and what each one of us needed to be doing.

- Respect and appreciation

So there is a vast chasm between everyone contributing and having a team goal (the previous 2 points). And this quality of our team is what bridged that divide. From my own perspective, I've done it before and I did it this weekend a couple times, I got sidetracked from the big picture and focused too much on the details that were still 100 yards away. Sure I was free to contribute, but I had lost (for a minute) the shared vision.

Beating me (or any other neigh-sayer) back into line will rarely work. Instead my teammates had the patience and respect to let me have my little spin-out and then come back to base.

It seems so simple an act, but it really takes a confident and strong team to give their teammates freedom and still appreciate them tomorrow.

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