Print

Print


*****  To join INSNA, visit http://www.insna.org  *****

> 
James,

You ask,

 "Can you say some more about teams as multiplex/multimodal networks modeled in a way that confers dynamical activity. And what beyond known multiplex dynamic models may be fertile and necessary to understand teams and other groups?"

Interesting questions. Be warned, however, that by asking them, you force me to cross the boundary that divides quantifiable data and quantitative analysis from the realm of history and ethnography. What I say below is taken from industry experience and reading accounts of how they manage teams written by some of Japan's most successful advertising creatives. Extrapolating what they say to, for example, engineering project teams or legal teams tacking mergers and acquisitions could be misleading. There will, to be sure, be similarities. There may also be huge differences. 


First, let us consider, the life cycle of teams. In the advertising world, new teams are formed for competitive pitches, where the goal is fresh ideas that will win new business. When a team wins an account, its core members will, most likely, stay together so long as the agency holds the account. The cycle then moves to a second stage. The team members become familiar with client tastes and expectations and the sorts of problems that the client's business is facing. Now the goal is no longer radically new ideas but ideas that support and refresh an established brand image. This stage may last for a number of years. In Japan, three to five is normal. At the third stage of the cycle, team and client have been together too long; they are getting tired of each other. Why do they stick together? On both sides they know a lot about each other. Starting over again with new partners is a leap into the unknown and sure to be stressful. Eventually, however, typically when the brand manager on the client side is replaced, the client puts the account into review. The agency must then decide whether to abandon the account or make a new pitch and, if making a new pitch, how to assemble the team to make it: give the old team another chance; retain the core of the old team while adding some fresh talent (replacing, for example, individuals whom the client now finds obnoxious), or creating a whole new team. That is an executive decision and depends on balancing the costs of making the pitch against available resources and other opportunities.

Second, there are leadership styles. Both the literature I've read and personal experience suggest that team leaders fall into two broad types. One has very clear ideas about what needs to be done and demands that the team follow his lead. One proponent of this approach is a firm believer in creative destruction. He says that developing new ideas requires at least three meetings, the first two of which are dedicated to eliminating early proposals that don't fit the project's requirements. The other type of leader is a coach who is willing to play the clown. He says that for a team to be truly creative its members have to be having fun. One, with whom I have had the pleasure of working, says that his tactic is to listen during brainstorming for the moment when someone responds to another's idea by saying, so shitara...(and then we could....). That is when the excitement starts to build. 

My data suggest that the coaches who clown win a lot more advertising awards than the "My way or else" types. Would this be true in other fields? I don't know. Most of my agency experience was working with one of the latter with clients with whom the agency had long-standing relationships. The job was mostly business-to-business advertising for high-tech products, and my mentor, who could be very harsh indeed when it came to what he didn't like, was also one of the hardest working people I have ever known. He was constantly studying his clients, their businesses and their products and was always the most knowledgeable person in the room at orientations or presentations. He was more feared than liked but commanded enormous respect. And he did a magnificent job of keeping those long relationships running smoothly. 

Thirdly, there are contexts to consider. I am working at this moment on a paper for which the data are the editors and judges comments in the series of advertising annuals from which I take my quantitative data. Here it is easy to see two trends. How people feel about the business fluctuates with the state of the economy. In the early 80s, as Japan headed into the Bubble years, the comments are wildly optimistic. A decade later, after the collapse of the Bubble, the mood is uncertain, even depressed. People who once saw themselves as "Hit men" (pun intended) and produced annuals filled with pistols and phallic imagery were now asking themselves, "What's it all about?" Secondly there is an ongoing debate about the role of copy and copywriters in advertising. In the early history of advertising, copywriters were production staff, subordinate to the art directors, who were seen as the creative folk. Once the art was decided, the writers would be told to come up with appropriate words. Then, as the Japanese economy took off in the 1970s, writers became heroes, the people who came up with key words that sold ideas to clients; but another factor had come into play. Those who had become stars in an era dominated by newspaper and magazine advertising found themselves challenged by the rise of TV. Writing an 8-second tagline for a TV commercial is a different art than writing headlines and body copy for print. As the status of planners, producers, and film directors rose, copywriters once again found themselves in danger of falling back into "Give me some words for this" servitude. This danger drove the shift in professional self-identity from wordsmith to concept maker. It may have led to the growing clout of the coach/clown creative directors, whose talent lies less in coming up with their own original ideas and insisting upon them and more in recognizing good ideas when they hear them and stimulating others to bring them to life.

How would you mathematically model all this? I don't have a clue. That is why my personal inclination is to start my "molecular" modeling with the stuff for which quantifiable data is readily available, the roles combined when teams are formed and the opportunity structures that result from changing role structures on the one hand and shifts in availability of the individuals who play those roles. But that is just me. I am always looking for better ideas.

Hope this is helpful.

John
_____________________________________________________________________
SOCNET is a service of INSNA, the professional association for social
network researchers (http://www.insna.org). To unsubscribe, send
an email message to [log in to unmask] containing the line
UNSUBSCRIBE SOCNET in the body of the message.