Sree Kotay, Comcast’s Chief Technology Officer, shares five ways to build the most successful teams through inclusion and disruptive thinking.
One of the first things I say when someone new comes to work for me is this: “you’re here because you’re smart, not because I want you to agree with me. So speak up.” Unity of vision is only worthwhile if that vision is tested and refined by diversity of thought. That’s how you get the best team, product, and innovation.
In today’s tech world, it’s all too easy, and unfortunately too common, that you find yourself surrounded by literal “Yes Men.” You have unintentional echo chambers across organizations, and while they may be filled with exceptionally talented people, without the disruption that comes from diverse voices, you risk missing the sparks that lead to the best innovations. The bottom line - it’s dangerous to have a chorus of people who sound like you, look like you, and think like you. You have to actively eliminate the tech echo chamber.
How? The answer is… deliberately. In my organization, my conscious goal is to cultivate diverse teams that are inclusive and promote space for different thinking, and just as importantly, different styles. Here are five things to think about if you want to avoid the tech echo chamber.
- Put a Premium on Creativity: To win in the hypercompetitive tech world of today, you need to tap into intellect, ability, and just as importantly, you need to tap into creativity. You cannot manufacture creativity, and it rarely comes from a group of people who share the same background, education, and interests… or gender. Recognize that creativity feeds on differences, and with that, you have to make room on your team for people who have different approaches.
- Don’t Put Yourself in Someone Else’s Shoes...Put Them in the Room: There’s only so much you can do to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, and making assumptions about other people’s preferences can be dangerous. The best way to walk in someone else’s shoes is to have that person represent themselves and tell you their ideas and thoughts.
- Your Way Isn’t Always the Right Way: I come from a world where healthy argument is natural for me...and enjoyable. But this doesn’t always fly when you’re trying to create the best team. Some people are turned off by this type of environment — introverts, for example, might be drained by this dynamic and less willing to share ideas. The right argument should win, not the right arguer. You need to give people with different styles time to process and work through things. Because ideas don’t happen “in the moment” for everyone, you must make space for your team’s best thinking.
- Make Sure You Have Valuable Value Metrics: I never want to see a dashboard that’s all green. That’s a scary sight for me, because I know you need to get it wrong to ultimately build the best products as quickly as possible. I value failing fast, and having teams that can handle it. You need to use the right measurements for value to achieve your goals — if you have a poor measure of value, poor results will follow. What does that mean? You need other ways to measure value beyond one simple output. Artificial value creation can result in an incomplete picture.
- Transparency Gets Results: This is the hardest one for some leaders, but it is also the easiest way to get results quickly. The more people are informed, the more they are empowered...or put bluntly, you cannot be empowered unless you are informed.