Growth Teams Say the Darnedest Things

 Photo by girlingearstudio

Photo by girlingearstudio

Do growth teams have unique conversations? If so, are these conversations a skill that can be mastered? I believe the answers are ‘Yes’ and ‘Yes.’ In fact, I feel so strongly that I’m writing a book about “Conversations for Growth.”

In my work at Peer Insight, I collaborate exclusively on growth teams, and three factors make our conversations different:

  1. The nature of our work (exploring uncertainty)
  2. The forces that resist the team (inertia vs. entrepreneurship; guess who is the heavy favorite?)
  3. The methods we use to overcome that resistance (the diverge-converge iterative cycle of the design process).

This combination of factors is unique to growth teams, and puts stress on our conversations that is unlike any other business discussion. In the past several months I have interviewed 33 growth leaders to ask them about the conversations on their growth teams. Here is a sampling of what I heard:

  • “My interest is in how leaders create the space for teams to solve wicked problems. A lot of the magic is in the conversations they have.”
  •  “Innovation and growth depends upon two types of conversations: possibility conversations and decision conversations. It is essential to know which mode we are in. At [my company], we often ask, ‘What kind of conversation are we having?’”
  • “What sucks the mojo out of a growth team? Sugar-coating. Sugar-coating is a sign of too much caution. If you can't take on the conflict, you're not going to be able to rewrite the future.”
  • “In innovation and growth, too often the conversation moves too fast. People are taking turns, but not actually building toward a new understanding. The growth conversation needs time to unfold, to iterate. I think we've done a poor job of creating that space in the process.”
  •  “There is a real need for discretion in the communication within a team. We live in an age of indiscretion, of Internet courage, and that's a threat to the kind of communication growth teams need. The pop culture norms are working against us.”
  •  “Play is important for growth teams as a source of optimism.”
  •  “Our teams work best if they can extend grace to each other; what could be called gratitude.”

As the quotes above suggest, the unique challenges of growth team conversations has led to some unique solutions. Play. Gratitude. Anti-sugar-coating.

What have you observed about the conversations for growth? I’d love to hear your thoughts in time to influence the book (i.e., in the next eight weeks). Drop me a note here, or e-mail me at