The Setpoint Superteam

How many companies are there where the employees don’t consider themselves as simply “employees,” but view their role as “Teammate?” Sound funny? Recently, I sent out a company wide query to determine what “SuperTeam” means. Some of the responses might interest you:

  • “Group of knowledgeable individuals that meet together to brainstorm and solve problems. Superteam concept allows Setpoint to avoid repeating past mistakes and offers a diverse perspective on solutions.”
  • “. . . it pushes the design to be imagined/created up front before you start actually designing because the designers are all working together to try to work out the kinks and problems that you can find. The benefit that I see is that you are able to learn from each other because each individual brings a unique set of experiences to the table, so as the designers do more together they have more opportunities to see how to fix something because they are collectively looking at it.”
  • “I think the “super team” in this case mostly refers to the size. Examples would be “super volcano” or “Super Carrier”. That being stated, I truly believe that the sum of each individuals’ contribution to any endeavor, if every idea is at least heard, has the greater potential to be superior at completion, than if each individual were separate, even in their field of expertise. This seems to be the case over and over again.”
  • “The Superteam concept takes advantage of all team members’ knowledge, experience, and background without the constant overhead of having them assigned to the project for the whole time. The theory is that everyone’s eyes on a project will produce a product faster, cheaper, and with fewer mistakes.  Why not let everyone do their area of expertise only on each project, instead of each of us trying to do it all?” In other words, let Steve be the technical guru, and Roger could manage the administrative, schedule, budget and customer communications.  This would (and has) allowed Steve to forego all the administrative duties and have more time to spend developing concepts and designs with the team(s), and Roger would spend less time doing engineering tasks and focus on project management. In essence, what we have in a super team environment is a Project Engineer/Architect (Steve), and a Project Manager (Roger), with each able to focus on their expertise.”

So what does Superteam mean to me? Simply this: Using our collective knowledge to solve any problem.  I believe our design team at Setpoint has broken the stereotypical mold commonly used to solve design related problems.  One example is the office space we created that has unofficially been dubbed our “War Room.” It’s an array of white boards and markers, this is where we take our designs by storm. We break away from our confined world of 3D CAD and step in front of an expanse of white boards that allow instant creativity to roam rapidly in a visual and interactive way.  There is something energizing about gathering creative minds around a whiteboard and thinking on your feet, it’s proven to be a powerful and simple way to solve problems as a team.

One day as we were standing at the white boards sketching we thought, “Wouldn’t it be cool if we had a projector to throw some images onto this board? Then we could sketch right on the part.”  The best part of this story is that we didn’t just let this idea fall through the cracks, we made it a reality. We don’t have the red tape other companies have in implementing new and innovative ideas, another benefit of a small company. On another day, we invited all the assembly technicians into the war room and fed them lunch while we reviewed a concept of a machine that was something we had never done before. We wanted their input to find the hidden dangers lurking in our design concept before we proposed it to a customer, and their input brought some common sense to our table of wild ideas.

It’s this mentality of “Let’s bring in the assembly crew to get their input on this sub-frame” or “Let’s bring in one of our customers’ machine operators to look at how this machine actuates” that brings unity to the Superteam.

Synergy: (from the Greek syn-ergos meaning working together) is the term used to describe a situation where different entities cooperate advantageously for a final outcome. Simply defined, it means that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The essence of synergy is to value differences.

  • A dynamic state in which combined action is favored over the sum of individual component actions.
  • Behavior of whole systems unpredicted by the behavior of their parts taken separately. More accurately known as emergent behavior.

The other positive element that lies within the Superteam – is improved creativity. The Superteam idea cultivates friendships, fun, and good social dynamics. Creativity is CORE to Setpoints ability to be innovative and solve problems. Forcing solutions by relying on previous known methods will work, it’s how Setpoint has survived so long. However, creativity seems to flow better when we are relaxed, when we are happy, and when our minds are free to search for solutions by roaming. There is a time and place for both methods, but in years gone by I dare say the creative approach has been suppressed. The Superteam approach is to take the best of both these methods and balance them. It’s a matter of leadership, it requires an intuitive approach that can’t be learned in books. Like a coach who knows each of his players on an interpersonal level. This is where Superteam excels, optimizing the team members to let each player engage in their strengths to achieve the desired outcome on the project. This change toward balanced creativity has been gradual at Setpoint, but is now more and more common on each project.

They say a chain is only as strong as it’s weakest link. That may be true, but the Superteam approach is to ask, “Wait, why are we using a chain? Let’s use something better.”    That’s what sets us apart.