Computing Teams


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When you’re putting together a group of engineers to solve a particular problem, finding team members with the right expertise and knowledge is only part of the challenge. You also want a team that works together as just that: a team. You want the right balance of creative minds and those with attention to detail, of people that analyze and people that get things done.

But how do you determine what kind of engineers you have on your hands and how best to use them? Head over to I-Opt.com and they’ll figure it out for you.

There, team members, or potential team members, can take a short 24-question survey. This is not a tautological Myers Briggs personality test (Do you like people? If yes, you’re the kind of person that likes people). Instead it examines how people process information. There’s an input side to that process, how we search for ideas; and an output side, what we do with them. The I-Opt survey pegs people along those two spectrums.

The first is patterned versus un-patterned thinking. Un-patterned thinkers might “just grab the next thing that goes by that looks like it might work. If it works, keep it, if not go on to the next thing,” explains founder and CEO Gary Salton. On the other side of the spectrum is the structured thinker, who “sees some kind of prearranged method, theory, or formula and throws out things that don’t fit.” It’s creativity on one side, attention to detail on the other.

The output spectrum plots people according to their proclivity to try and understand vs. their drive to get things done.

Sample TeamAnalysis can be downloaded from I-Opt.com website.

The results of the survey will tell you who to select and how best to direct them, depending on the goal of the team. “If you have a team that’s laying out a refinery, you don’t’ want to make mistakes, so you load the team with relatively more structured people,” says Salton.  “But if you’re looking for new ideas for R and D, there you’ll take anything.”

I-Opt offer a “Team Analysis” report that can suggest ways of increasing or restricting creativity depending on the problem that has to be solved. “If you have a bunch of structural people that are thinking by the book and you want to put in some creativity, well you can make a rule: ‘We won’t think about anything that has less than a $50,000 price tag,’” says Salton. “That’ll introduce an element of spontaneity.”

In practice, a team analysis can help leaders make efficient choices to increase efficiency. A recent client was an energy company in Michigan. Productivity was low at many of their sites, so they asked their employees to take the I-Opt survey. Using the analysis, they simply reshuffled engineers into different groups. “They traded people: ‘I’ll give you George, you give me Sam. I need George’s ideas, you need Sam’s ideas,’” Salton says. “It brought some new energy into the area.” Productivity shot from nadir to zenith, and it didn’t cost the company a cent, beyond the $11 per survey and $95 for the team analysis.

The I-Opt tools work just as well with “the local tool and die shop with five people,” as it does with bigger companies, says Salton. In fact, a party of two can find out what kind of cubicle mates they might be with a “Two Person Analysis Report.”

“Are you looking for complimentary on contrasting perspectives?” asks Salton. “We measure the propensities of people to behave in a certain way.”

Michael Abrams is an independent writer.

If you have a bunch of structural people that are thinking by the book and you want to put in some creativity, well you can make a rule.

Gary Salton, founder, I-Opt.com

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January 2013

by Michael Abrams, ASME.org