What You Can Learn About Teams From How Cookie Cutters Are Made

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I was scrolling through LinkedIn this morning and came across a video posted by Business Insider on how cookie cutters were made. The video made something in my brain click. Cookie cutters, at least the ones shown in this video, are made by specially designed machines for the desired pattern, each pattern has its own machine. The machine has the design in the center, say a gingerbread man or a moose, and then hydraulic or man-powered arms punch pieces of tin into shape. Each arm is shaped differently in order to perfectly mold the tin into the correct shape. From the roundness of a head on a gingerbread man to the indent on a heart, each arm is specifically designed for that purpose.

Have I lost you yet? You’re probably wondering why this has anything to do with your career. It does, I promise.

Think of the cookie cutter pattern as your work team. The goal of the team is to get a project done, in this case, make a cookie cutter. Each person on that team should bring a specific set of skills to the table in order to complete the project, making each person an arm on the machine. No one person is the same, as no arm on the cookie cutter machine is the same. Although shapes like a gingerbread man are symmetrical, differently shaped arms can produce the same result on each side. The same goes for your project team, multiple skill sets can reach the same result. When working in a team it is important to remember that differences and diversity in skillset do matter. Diverse groups allow for a faster solution, 60% faster in fact! When teams are comprised of individuals with different skill sets, jobs can be done more efficiently when everyone is empowered to utilize their different skills. A study by Deloitte in 2013 found that employees are 83% more likely to innovate when their organization shows an interest and a dedication to their diversity. This dedication to diversity will show employees that their differences are appreciated and encouraged in the workplace.

When starting new teams and projects think about personalities, job duties, and outside skills that will help towards the goal. Are you trying to better understand your customers who are older? The Pharmacy Technician with 10 years of long-term care experience will be able to give some insight. Are you trying to find more entry-level pharmacists for your company? The lead pharmacist that’s also an adjunct at the local pharmacy school can be helpful. Think about how your employees interact with each other, is there someone who can easily rally a group of people to do out of office activities? Maybe they would work well with rallying a project team to finish the goal as well. Don’t just look at past work experience, but outside hobbies as well. This article from The Muse outlines how outside of work activities can actually benefit someone’s career. Activities like stand up comedy, and improv can help people make better decisions and remain calm in the face of impending doom.

Fully allowing your employees to be themselves will encourage an atmosphere of encouragement and collaboration. It will help projects run smoothly and effectively, and most importantly efficiently. In the end, everyone, no matter how different, will come together and produce the best cookie cutter there ever was.

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