John Kolm

Post image for John Kolm

by Amanda Biller on March 27, 2014


Teamwork and the New Science

= = = = =

What’s the worst “team building” event you’ve ever been on?

If you’re thinking about the time you had to play a lame roleplaying game a la “The Office”, or the time a facilitator made you write your “values” on an egg, count yourself lucky. A large fast-food chain sent its leadership team on a “firewalking” course – which helps productivity not at all – and they ended up going to hospital with burned feet in a fleet of 13 ambulances.  Secret herbs and spices, anyone?

One reason there is so much rubbish out there in the name of team development is that there is no way to measure the results.  And if results can’t be measured, then you might as well just hire the company that looks prettiest, charges the least, sounds the most plausible, or has friends in the organization.  After all, it’s just “teambuilding”.

There is a revolution coming in the world of team and leadership training, and it’s called “Team Neurodynamics”.  It’s no fad or fashion, but a genuine revolution which has been embraced by the American Psychiatric Association and institutions like UCLA, the U.S. Nuclear Navy and Sandia Labs.  The innovation is that we can now, with EEG and other technology, look at the brain’s inner workings directly – and thus we can create good models of what works and what does not work for the very first time.

Team Results USA and UCLA have been doing research together in team neurodynamics for the last 18 months, and the results are astonishing.  We’ve seen that teams innovate, adapt and change much faster than anyone thought; and that most of the old models for teamwork are wrong.  For example, healthy teams – even expert nuclear submarine teams – don’t operate in that everybody-holds-hands, collegiate, “kumbaya” mode for most of the time.  The collegiate mode is necessary, but is seen less than 4% of the time – so it’s wrong to beat yourself up when you don’t see it much at work.

The new science of neurodynamics is the biggest change in our understanding of people since the pioneering work of Sigmund Freud.  It means a complete, 180-degree shift from observing behavior and guessing what it means – and your guess is often as good as anyone else’s – to observing the brain directly and seeing what’s really going on.  It’s like the difference between trying to diagnose a car from the engine noise, and being allowed to lift the hood and actually look at the engine.

To read more about the latest discoveries in teamwork and the new science – and thus get ahead of the curve yourself – click here for an update and some pictures of experiments being done right now.

Team Results’ contact for these modern methods and ideas is John Kolm.  He can be reached at .

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =




Trust, Face and Tribe – The Telework Dilemma


January 30, 2014


Telework would seem to have everything going for it.  It takes advantage of technology, saves time and the environment, and cuts down on office space.  So why isn’t it more popular?

On the opposing side, bosses often still struggle with trusting people to work when they can’t be seen.  There’s also the matter of “face” – as a boss, do I look as important if half my office cubicles are empty and other bosses complain that my staff can’t be found?  And finally, as a good leader, I might reasonably ask if team “feel” and productivity is harmed when people seldom see each other.

Ask about Telework in any social forum and you’ll soon be overwhelmed with viewpoints.  You’ll also encounter some very strong feelings.  We’re emotionally invested in the Telework debate because it speaks to our innermost selves and our need for validation and recognition.

The most testing environments for Telework are ones in which there is a mix of Telework and regular commuting.  In these environments, and without careful management, we risk creating a whole new generation of opportunity-rich and opportunity-poor workers.  Humans are physiologically wired to live in tribes, and the tendency to have higher affinity for people we see and touch – even if we disagree with them – has been validated again and again in research studies.  Depending on what you want out of work, and on what the boss needs the team to do, mixed Telework and commuting environments can carry a significant price tag in equal opportunity and team productivity.

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer and Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly ended Telework for largely this reason, and both – Mayer especially – have taken heavy fire because of it.  Yet both are turning around large organizations, and both are presumably looking for the best solutions.

One of the biggest problems in the Telework debate is that the metrics are very rubbery, even when focused on personal benefit and obvious savings.  When it comes to tribal benefits and team productivity, there are no useful metrics at all.  In workplaces where a mix of Telework and commuting potentially makes sense, we need much better ways of tracking the team results – and we also need to be careful that we don’t accidentally undo decades of striving for equal opportunity in the workplace.

John Kolm is the CEO of Team Results USA, a team development company that specializes in team productivity and operational readiness.  Everyone at Team Results telecommutes.


John Kolm


Team Results USA


Lean Forward and Strap In


The next few months will see some of the biggest changes in staff and people development for the last 20 years.

A combination of global fiscal tightening and a series of scandals in which unqualified “trainertainers” were hired – at great cost – in preference to real trainers at various conferences and meetings have changed the landscape for senior managers in government and industry. After a temporary chilling effect and a recalibration of assumptions and standards, people development is set to re-emerge in a new and reinvented form, like the phoenix of legend.

Underlying the fiscal pressures and the scandals is a bigger picture. The two toughest problems in people development globally are overwhelm and measurement. There’s a baffling range of choice assailing the senior manager – all shrilly promoted by special interests – and almost no way of measuring the results. In an environment where every option seems different only in trivial and selffocused ways, and where the argument for any option is based on guesswork and assertion, it’s no surprise that training is often treated with the same respect as snake oil sales. People development is using 60-year-old models, even when it’s packaged as something new, and the industry as a whole is in the same place medicine was about 200 years ago, before reliable science and good diagnostics.

The new people development which emerges after all this change will be based more on science, on provable productivity outcomes and on practical benefit than on arguments over political or academic correctness, focus on inputs, and good old-fashioned crony relationships and snake-oil salesmanship.

Our own team is doing everything we can to bring in a new level of rigor. In July we’ll announce a new model for team dynamics at a major conference (see News Room), based on joint research we’ve done on the working brain with UCLA. The new model will replace ideas that date back to the late sixties. As well, we’ve always measured practical productivity outcomes with our Team Dashboard™ instrument, and that’s something clients now demand on every engagement. And finally, we’ll resist the urge to fall back on the hand-waving, jargon-laced, look-at-me arguments of yesteryear; what matters instead is good science, a very practical focus on workplace results above all else, and a matching focus on YOU –

where our attention should be.

Get ready for a summer of change!

John Kolm

If you have any feedback, we love to hear from clients and prospective clients. You can reach our Site Administrator at, or please feel very welcome to write to me directly at .

Comments on this entry are closed.

Next post: