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Creating and Managing Diverse Teams

Creating and Managing Diverse Teams

Creating and Managing Diverse Teams

Sometimes the sudden realization that signals a creative thought sparks within a single, prepared mind. Alexander Fleming was sorting plates of an apparently failed experiment with staphylococci cultures when he spotted an unusual mold inhibiting culture growth. And penicillin was conceived. More frequently, however, creative ideas occur at the intersection of different disciplines or experience bases, even in science. In business settings, the creative impetus for innovation is rarely the brainchild of a single individual. Rather, innovation emerges through an interactive creative process among people whose original contributions derive from their diverse life training and experiences. Very homogenous groups are subject to ďgroupthink,Ē which is the tendency to converge easily on solutions or proposals, because everyoneís thought processes are similar. KM contributes to innovation to the extent that teams wishing to innovate are exposed to different knowledge bases, different modes of analysis, and stimuli from outside experiences.

What the Individual Brings to the Team

The study partners are using a myriad of training functions to bring employees to desired levels of knowledge-sharing capability. They are using mentoring, e-learning, and action learning, as well as focusing on professional development and hiring people with knowledge sharing and innovation competencies. They understand the important role that training and learning plays in the preparation of team member inputs to teamwork and the work environment.

Study partners are inclined to use training initiatives to foster knowledge sharing and innovation. Almost 72 percent of partner organizations use training initiatives to foster knowledge sharing and innovation. This suggests that partners understand the value of taking advantage of training and learning opportunities as part of their people development strategies.


NASA JPL leverages learning and training functions to support knowledge sharing and innovation including mentoring, coaching, and e-learning. Its academy of program and project leadership hosts classes, team-targeted training, just-in-time online learning, and a community of practice for project managers. To date, NASA JPL has implemented an e-learning effort for 18,000 employees and is currently in the process of expanding its program to bring more diverse internal and external offerings to the work force.

The KM program at the Kennedy Space Center focuses its training efforts on the management of core competencies, the ability of employees to attain key skills on the job, and capturing key knowledge in explicit forms.

The World Bank

The mission of the World Bankís global development learning network is to improve development by using distance learning to train development decision makers. The aim of the network is to use information technologies to offer content from a wide range of sources and reach a critical mass of participants to bring about change.

The participants are usually a mix of decision makers in government, nongovernmental organizations, academia, civil society, private enterprise, and international agencies. The network allows participants to learn in their home environments by providing a cost-effective alternative to face-to-face learning. It uses a mix of technologies, including satellite communications, videoconferencing, e-mail, the Internet, CD-ROMs, videos, and telephone conferencing. The network is a growing partnership, with 29 distance learning centers and distance learning networks of approximately 20,000 participants.

Figure 2 offers a closer look at the specific learning and training functions employed by study partners and sponsors. Mentoring, on-the-job training, and e-learning are used heavily by partners, whereas coaching is not used as extensively.

Click To expand
Figure 2: Learning and Training Functions Used to Support Knowledge Sharing and Innovation

Professional Development
Nasa JPL

NASA JPLís Academy of Program and Project

Leadership program provides professional development to teams and individuals through performance support, knowledge sharing, courses, career development, university partnerships, and advanced technology tools. Since 1997, many of NASAís more experienced practitioners have left in a time that the number of projects has increased. As a result, a younger and less experienced work force is \increasingly in charge of more complex projects. This fact is the catalyst for a need for increased mentoring, support, and development. The academy program facilitates the transfer of this knowledge and helps to develop future NASA project leaders.

The programís five operational areas of expertise are:

  1. the project management development process,

  2. training courses,

  3. project team performance support,

  4. online project management tools, and

  5. benchmarking and research.

New-hire Orientation

The study partners are actively looking for qualities of knowledge sharing and innovation when recruiting new hires. By doing so, they hope to realize the benefits of saved time and money through increased productivity and adherence to KM objectives and innovation initiatives. Almost 86 percent of partner organizations actively recruit with knowledge-sharing skills in mind. Because knowledge sharing is so much a part of the way they work, it is preferable to have people with developed knowledge-sharing skill sets than to have to train and assimilate them. Also, almost 72 percent of study partners actively recruit new hires based on innovation skills.

The disparity could be due to the fact that the study partners have a more highly-developed innovation focus than the study sponsors and, as a result, have a greater need for these skills and attributes.


3M looks for certain traits and characteristics in prospective employees, and the human resource department developed a handbook for its recruiters and hiring managers to use while recruiting. 3Mís desired traits include being creative, having broad interests, problem solving, resourcefulness, being motivated and energized, and having a strong work ethic. The company is implementing an evaluation and development program focused on the following six leadership attributes:

  1. charts the course,

  2. raises the bar,

  3. energizes others,

  4. resourcefully innovates,

  5. lives 3M values, and

  6. delivers results.

3M considers these six leadership attributes, together with its three global competency knowledge factors (i.e., corporate knowledge, business acumen, and functional expertise), to be its overall leadership model.

3Mís recruiting strategies include long-term relationships with key universities and their key departments and faculty. 3M believes major opportunities exist in developing relationships with faculty members and graduate students, and many university students intern at 3M and gain critical exposure to its culture, people, and processes. This recruiting strategy allows both 3M and the intern to test the water to see if a future relationship is viable. 3M also leverages applied research funding for recruiting and leverages other university programs and services such as the placement office. Early identification, assessment, and socialization to the 3Mís culture is key for future relationships and long-term employment.

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