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The 5 secret ingredients for a successful integrated team

I’ve worked in advertising and public relations for almost 20 years. I’ve watched agency after agency try to create integrated teams where disciplines blend and complement each other to create seamlessly integrated campaigns.

In the office, we’ve found a model that works. It requires a carefully cultivated culture and a lot of experimenting. We tinker with it daily, but we’re making progress.

1. A strict no egomaniacs rule

This is key. Cowboys and divas need not apply, no matter how talented. Integrated teams require patience, tolerance and open-mindedness. One poison ego can ruin a project, and pollute an agency.

2. A common understanding

Integrated teams need to operate as collectives with a common goal. The goal must be clearly stated and the different disciplines involved must understand their role in achieving it. Hastily blending teams for the sake of integration is a recipe for frustration and failure. Death to the aimless brainstorm!

3. Integrated personality traits

How does our office successfully combine former book editors, music journalists, conservative staffers and eco guides on the same team and get results? By actively seeking out and cultivating people with certain common personality traits. Namely: respect, curiosity, enthusiasm, playfulness and dedication.

4. Integrated leadership

Setting the tone for integrated teams has to come from the top. If your managing partner or senior team suffers from “discipline chauvinism” favouring issues over creative, or traditional over new media, you’re going to fail. Right team for the right job should be your only mantra.

5. A pathological need to solve problems

My colleagues have an insatiable need to untangle our clients’ problems. The ‘tanglier’ the problem, the better. We don’t care how it happens, as long as it happens. This desire leads to natural integration as teammates seek each other out for counsel when their own experience or skillset is exhausted. When you care more about how a problem gets solved than who solved it, integration becomes easy.

So before you start smashing your silos, blending your teams and flattening your hierarchies, you may want to reflect on these ingredients.