Identifying the Behaviors and Actions of Facilitators of Successful Teams

Ms. Jill Macchiaverna, Exaptive, Inc.; Mr. Dave King, Exaptive, Inc.; Dr. Alicia Knoedler, Independent Contractor; Dr. Terri Gilbert, Cohen Veterans Bioscience; Mr. Victor Soji Ladele, Health Innovation Lab

Across the team science literature there is a lot of focus on facilitation, but less on the facilitator’s specific contributions and the effectiveness of those contributions. What is it about the facilitator that has such an impact on whether teams are effective, or even formed to begin with? What do we know about what facilitators do that catalyzes successful teams? And can those actions be conducted in a virtual environment? Our panel will consider specific examples of facilitator choices, behaviors, and discoveries that have produced success within teams. We’ll hear from the moderator and three panelists who each have unique perspectives on facilitating teams in various settings: academia, bioscience foundation, non-governmental organization, and digital/virtual.

Academic Perspective:

The Science of Team Science Conference has become a multidisciplinary confluence of researchers and practitioners sharing ideas and strategies regarding work that occurs within teams. Over the past decade, academic institutions have been increasing their investments in personnel who provide support and assistance to these teams, but there is a lack of general knowledge and understanding about how to measure the capabilities and performance of the individuals providing support and assistance to teams. There is evidence that leadership turnover at the dean, vice president/chancellor for research, and provost levels creates the need to train these new leaders in what makes for effective performance for team facilitators and project managers.

Dr. Alicia Knoedler, PhD, who has facilitated and supported the development of academic research teams for nearly 20 years, has been exploring how to most effectively bring knowledge about team facilitators, their behaviors and contributions, to research leadership to reinforce the value that practitioners and facilitators of teams bring to the success and growth of the academic research enterprise.

Bioscience Non-Profit Perspective:

In a bioscience research non-profit setting, the feedback loop among researchers can determine whether hypotheses are answered in weeks or years. Bioscientists are fantastic at coming up with great questions and experiments to find evidence. Many times the experimental evidence that is generated comes in the form of huge amounts of data. When it is time to perform analysis on the data, it must be handed off to the bioinformaticians.

Bioscientists are trained in wet biology. Bioinformaticians are trained in data science. Most of the time in science, the scientist can understand the limitations of methods and how far to interpret results, but when a bioscientist hands off their data to the bioinformatician, there are communication barriers due to the lack of cross-disciplinary understanding. There can be weeks between iterative cycles where the bioscientist has given their data and goals over to the bioinformatician and when the bioinformatician (likely running analyses for several scientists at once) can return the analyses and explain the results to the bioscientist.

Dr. Terri Gilbert, PhD, is the Engagement Director for BRAIN Commons at Cohen Veterans Bioscience. She works to bridge that gap between bioscientists and bioinformaticians to reduce the iterative time necessary for quality research. She will share the practices that have led to successful team development and collaboration in her experiences at Cohen Veterans Bioscience and the Allen Institute for Brain Science.

NGO Perspective:

In non-governmental organizations, coordination of rapid response teams during emergencies/humanitarian crises faces a lot of challenges because of its linear design. A hierarchical structure, geographical dispersion, multiplicity of organizations, and disparate technical capacities make it difficult for the best ideas to be generated and a deep level of collaboration is near impossible. Usually what is learned in learned only in retrospect, not during the crisis. This inefficiency is measured in lives lost and increased morbidity.

Dr. Victor Soji Ladele, MBBS, who was a humanitarian aid coordinator for the World Health Organization during the 2014 Ebola outbreak in Liberia, proposes deploying a cognitive network platform during emergencies and humanitarian crises that will facilitate a real time coordination mechanism. The benefits would include but not be limited to:

Senior decision makers would receive quick feedback from the frontlines and new ideas to enhance effectiveness of the response would be generated.

Lessons learned in one location would be quickly dispersed throughout the response.

Native inhabitants would be able to contribute their unique perspective to response activities, and responder teams can build on their very good ideas.

The right people would be gathered around the table for the right meetings.

Furthermore, senior managers will see the effectiveness of various types of team composition and more quickly determine the optimal skill mix for different response scenarios based on objective measures.

Digital/Virtual Perspective:

Team building is becoming more critical for innovation in every domain and organization. Gone are the days of lone geniuses locked away coming up with the new ideas. Exaptive has created a virtual platform for innovation, the Cognitive City, where teams can connect and collaborate around data. Founder and CEO, Dave King, can demonstrate several cases of what facilitation looks like in a digital platform. Using integrative software allows organizations to capture digital exhaust (data created in the natural occurence of activities like communicating, holding meetings, utilizing digital tools) in a productive way. In the process of interacting with a digital innovation platform, digital markers that indicate facilitation can be quantified and measured over time. Dave King will moderate the panel.

This panel will focus on actionable lessons learned. Facilitation of successful teams is important in every industry, every field, every specialty. When we can determine what the characteristics are of successful facilitators, we can discover the behaviors and activities that are teachable, replicable, and scalable.