Most of them hadn’t worked together before.

They were planning their team start-up and wanted something simple yet effective at helping them get to know each other’s preferences.

We considered psychometrics like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), Strengths Deployment Inventory (SDI) or Gallup’s StrengthsFinder and decided that they’d be of more use when we had more preparation time and/or needed more insight once we’d worked together for a while.

The Thumbnail tool seemed just right to fit the brief.

Team members were prompted to think about the questions beforehand but it was only in the engaging climate of the meeting itself that we asked them end the following sentences:

  1. You can expect my style to be…
  2. If something is wrong, I might be…
  3. I’d like it if you could be like this with me…

They didn’t really need the examples we suggested as possible endings.

The calm silence whilst creating their Thumbnails was quickly broken by the busy buzz of team members seeking each other out to compare notes as a first task – with those they had worked with most and least to date.

Once the important one-to-one connections were completed, we looked for common themes to help us predict team dynamics.

For each question, we invited the team to gather, in clusters, aspects of their answers that they had in common. They then asked:

  1. What would we expect to see in or between team meetings, given these clusters?
  2. How can we build on this to be more effective?”

After we’d learnt lots about each other and the team, the final step was to photograph every Thumbnail for the team’s file share.

The value was really gained in the months to come when team members looked back over the Thumbnails at those critical points when they needed a reminder of how to alter their style to help them work even better with one or more of their colleagues.