Team Basics
8. Team Creativity

  Team Creativity - The Traffic Team Example

In 1983, the management team of a large organization was struggling with a severe traffic problem on the road leading to their location. The road crossed four miles of protected wetlands, so it could not be widened without significant environmental impact. Each morning the traffic leading to the site was backing up the entire four-mile length of the road, adding an hour to commuting time. The resulting aggravation caused productivity to drop significantly.

Three years earlier the management team had hired traffic consultants to solve the problem. Their work focused on a future widening of the road and looked promising, but their attempts to devise short-term solutions failed miserably. 

As a last resort, management decided to assemble a team of people from the company to address short-term solutions. The ten-person team was comprised of engineers, clerical personnel, line workers, and union representatives. This team met twice a week for a month, culminating in a series of recommendations that ultimately improved the traffic flow both into and out of the site. 

The simplicity of the team's recommendations surprised management. For example, in one recommendation the team suggested that trucks making deliveries to the site be prohibited from doing so between the hours of 6:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. Since there were many deliveries to the site at this time, this recommendation immediately removed some of the slowest, most cumbersome traffic clogging the road. Additional recommendations were also made that similarly contributed to easing the problem. The result was almost instantaneous improvement in the traffic flow.

At the outset, management had doubted that this team could solve the problem. After all, experts had been studying it for three years. But in turning to their own people they found a solution, and in so doing, they tapped into the essence of team creativity. Innovation has no bounds, and when it is combined with a process of collaboration that multiplies its effect, it has great power.