Before I started at Law firm X in Birmingham(so this is NOT based on any experiences in the firm), I wrote an article for the Birmingham Law Society in March 2006 covering the use of informal networks in knowledge sharing and how our relationships with our team can affect knowledge sharing.
One of the areas looked at when completing a recent long term project on knowledge sharing in a law firm was the use of informal networks as a means of knowledge sharing within organisations.
As part of my research I asked people within the organisation whether they knew the best person to look for if they needed help on a particular legal problem or project that they were working on. Not too unsurprisingly people knew who was the expert on a particular aspect of the law and also they placed an economic value on that information and avoided using knowledge from people that was not considered to be of benefit.
However recent research in the US & Europe has also highlighted that work partners aren’t only tapped for the knowledge that they can bring but also for their likeability.
From a study covering 10000 working relationships across 5 organisations researchers have discovered four archetypes for teams:-
1. The competent jerk – they know a lot but are unpleasant
2. The lovable fool – who doesn’t know much but is a delight to work with
3. The lovable star – who is a delight to work with and knows a lot
4. The incompetent jerk well they are easy to categorise and desperately avoided
Of course we know that every person would like to work with no 3. However the research highlighted that people would rather work with the lovable fool above the competent jerk. Probably you know people within your organisation, that if you created a matrix as below you could populate it fairly easily
However the lovable fool does play an important part in a team. This is because they are liked by a large amount of people they can act as bridge builders for the team and bring in other diverse groups that might not normally interact with one another. So although their performance skills may not be as high as numbers 1 and 3 they tend to make up for it in their bridge building skills.
Of course that leaves the competent jerk. People may not want to work with them in a team and of course people may improve through coaching or being held to account for their behaviour. (It is amazing that many of these people don’t see their poor behaviour for the effects that it has on people). However a lot of these people do tend to work better in isolated settings or by careful re-positioning.
I’m not saying that when you are creating teams you should not have a little bit of grit in it. It avoids the dangers of group think where a group of similar people all work together will give you a limited range of perspectives and people may not be willing to criticise people that they know and like. However a diverse group provides an array of perspectives, which can lead to a better way to accomplishing the task and thus providing added value for you and your client.