Applied Systemics Physicist
Founder / CEO FlowTeam Corp.
After completing his studies at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Martin Gerber went to work in the precision instrument industry, first with Mettler Toledo and then with UTC International.
At these companies projects were often undertaken by special ad-hoc teams. Management would carefully select and bring together employees with the right skills and experiences for a particular project in the hope that the chosen team would produce the desired results. Quite often they didn't …
Gerber wondered why. So, as head of the UTC organizational development division, Gerber created a project support organization and focused its efforts on how best to transform a group of specialists into a high-performance team. During this time there was a popular interest in "management by recipe". Many believed that simply by applying the right formulas a project team could be managed to achieve a successful outcome.
As a scientist Gerber was always very sceptical about such 'cookie-cutter' approaches. He wanted to validate and verify what really makes teams efficient and effective. So, together with his project support team, he observed and measured very precisely the results of these popular methodologies.
First, his research teams tested the assumption that the 'right' mix of personality types on a team can produce the desired results most efficiently. They built 'ideal' teams as appropriate to various contexts. For comparison, they also put together completely 'wrong' teams for the same situations. The results were mixed. Some of these teams where efficient, others were not. There was no real correlation between "ideal" and "wrong" teams and the results they achieved.
Similar conclusions were reached when Gerber's researchers tested other methodologies such as social competence, sensitivity training, various incentive systems, assessment centres, and outdoor wilderness trainings. Their observations were always the same. They never found a direct correlation between these methods and the teams actual performance. The fact that a particular method produced successful results in one
organization did not guarantee that it would be successful in another one.
So Gerber abandoned this line of research and took another approach. He and his researchers began observing teams, which were clearly successful, both in the efficiency of their work process and in the results they achieved. Gerber's goal was to discover what these 'super teams' had in common.
Although Gerber's researchers collected a significant amount of data on these teams, they were not able to find the critical similarities they were looking for. It was only after consultation with specialists in the science of systems theory did a new basic assumption emerge. Gerber postulated the possibility that the same phenomena of self-organization found in complex systems in nature might also be operational in the dynamics and behaviours of these 'super teams'. Quite soon an analysis of the data revealed the truth: high performance teams exhibit the same phenomena as successful complex systems found in nature. Therefore, the efficiency and effectiveness of any team can be optimized when the team applies the basic principles of self-organizing complex systems to their endeavours.
But the science of complex systems can be quite complicated and it is not so easy to apply these theories to the practical realities of people working together in teams. So Gerber took his own experience in mathematics, physics, training, organizational development, and business process and together with an international network of entrepreneurs, managers, system scientists and members of high-performance-teams focused on making these concepts understandable and usable.
The FlowTeam Design, FlowStyleConference and FlowStyleMeeting methodologies are the result of this research. Over the past twelve years, they have been successfully applied by Gerber and his FlowTeam Corporation to teams at numerous companies in Europe and the US, including: ABB, Allianz Insurance, AOK, AMD, Bosch/Scintilla, CREDIT SUISSE, Dresdner Bank, IBM, Migros, Mikron, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, SBB (Swiss Railways), SMH / Swatch-Group, Swisscom, Swiss Reinsurance, UBS and several public and governmental organizations.