Circular Teams

–Going to the extreme creates counter-balancing effects.

This trend opens great opportunities for disruptive thinking leading to the emergence of new ideas, materials, and technologies and even new managerial thinking patterns.

One example is the scarcity of material resources coupled with the vast production of wastes reaching great risks for the environment. Going to the extreme of waste-generation led to new governmental regulations for dumping wastes. The regulations extreme increased the costs of dumping wastes. This trend leads to counter-thinking. Instead of disposing of wastes how could we utilize them? Therefore, the idea of a circular economy emerged. This led me to suggest the idea of establishing circular teams.

One recent great example of what I am claiming is using waste bricks or new ones as energy storage devices in a building.

Disruptive thinking that shall lead to the emergence of new products and technologies.

By injecting the porous bricks with gases, a chemical reaction ensues in the bricks that lead to the formation of fibrous polymeric fibers that fit into the pores of bricks. These fibers are also great conductors of electricity.

Going to the extreme is an opportunity for make the edge of chaos between order and chaos a great source for disrupting and recharging our brains with emerging potential ideas.

Your biggest source of creative ideas lies in a problem that reached its extreme.

The Idea of Circular Teams Emerged

It is amazing how ideas emerge! I was researching for the different plant metaphors that people suggested for growth such as “Toyota is like green tomato”, leaders “are like dandelions” and the “Banyan tree”., or like or more like the” bamboo Chinese tree” and other metaphors. I shall be sharing them in a future post. While doing the research it puzzled me how plants recycle their wastes to be the nutrients for other plants. This observation has inspired the idea of a circular economy. Rather than follow the linear model of Make-Use-Dispose upgrade to a circular one of different 3- Rs: (Refurbish- Reuse- Recycle). This thinking is establishing roots and is being firmly developing. It is, in emulation of plants, why not have human ideas and experiences are recycled as raw materials for more enriched ideas and experiences? Why not have the circular teams to recycle their ideas and expertise so that new lean thinking may develop?

A circular economy is an economic system of closed loops in which raw materials, components, and products lose their value as little as possible, renewable energy sources are used and systems thinking is at the core.

Ideas started flowing in my mind and new questions emerged accordingly. One idea that is wasted or neglected idea maybe the source feed for generating new ideas. In addition, the idea of circular teams sparkled in front of my eyes.

For circular teams to form they need to grow as trees and plants do. Trees first develop their root systems for they sense that the roots even though are underground they support the tree with water and the nutrients for the tree to grow with enough strong bark to carry the tree. The roots spread in many directions in the search for food. Some roots may even find their way in the cracks of rocks in search for food. The roots have a symbiotic relationship with the fungi. The tree provides the fungi with sugar and the tree may use the roots of the fungi as “fiber optics” to communicate electrical signals to neighboring trees warning them of forthcoming risk from hostile insects as well as extracting needed nutrients. This relationship is strong because of the lasting need for this collaboration.

Likewise, teams and organizations may only grow if they have deep roots of knowledge to collect and circulate. Knowledge is what feeds the roots and is the source of different nutrients. Likewise, teams need to have different knowledge from different sciences and ideas to grow well.

The variety of the members of a team should be a cohesive force rather than a repulsive one for every member of the team realizes the need for others’ “knowledge nutrients” to grow as a tree does.

Some trees have hollow barks. It is in these hollows these trees host plants so that when they die their nutrients are passed through the hollow barks to the “grassroots” workers to absorb. Old employees may have lost the edge of new technologies, but they store great experiences that they must be willing to pass downward to the roots to enrich them with new nutritional ideas. Self-renewing of ideas, of employees, and of products are what keeps a business antifragile. These old employees have the stored experiences to inoculate old ideas and generate new ones.

Like trees that keep changing their leaves to manufacture food so are the trees of teams. They need to change some of the employees or add new ones so that they may keep their production quality high. It is self-renewal of not just part of the workers or the “upper-ground workers”, but also the grassroots workers so that the whole team might grow.

We plant trees or plants along with other companion plants. This is a two-edged approach for they not all have mutual symbiosis to grow. For example, some companions plants help improve the health and vigor of the tomato plants, some improve the tomato flavor, and other companion plants are used to repel and deter insects. Select team members who have the character and values to work with others; otherwise, the prevailing culture becomes the unhealthy soil to grow new seeds of ideas, or that the harvested fruits of ideas may even lead to late blights, as is the case in growing tomatoes with cauliflower, for example.

Not all plants make “good teammates’. Back to tomatoes, Eggplant, peppers, and potatoes: These plants are in the nightshade family like tomatoes and are all susceptible to early and late blightwhich will build up in the soil and get worse each year.

The roots of teams must grow in a soil of values. Knowledge, beliefs, and void of employees who just are the cause of late blights that may intoxicate the collective teamwork. These are important issues if we thrive to form circular teams so that no waste will be discarded; in contrast, it shall be the feedstock for greater ideas.

It is circular collaboration that is based on trust and solid core values that keep this circulation going in rounds with the flow of information and ideas circulating from roots to the top of the {team tree) and back.

A good example of the need for circular teams and circular ideas is sticky notes. The adhesive that was prepared as glue for cartoon boxes failed. The product was about to be discarded. Somebody then asked an opportunity-widening question “if it is not good for cartoon boxes can’t it be useful for something else”. The question circulated and the answer was to make the sticky notes. No waste of ideas, but by diverging our thinking they could be the gems we are looking for. The adhesive has a microsphere structure, which meant it could be removed without leaving residue and ready for reuse. . For more ideas, see this reference

Other examples of fascinating ideas to transform their trash into beauty are “65 upcycling ideas to transform your old stuff”. There are some genius ideas to transform trash creatively into useful ideas. Waste is indeed a cheap resource for creative applications.

E-waste is a rapid field of increased interest. The World Economic Forum has repeatedly highlighted the risks and opportunities in such wastes. Humankind’s insatiable demand for electronic devices is creating the world’s fastest-growing waste stream. Some forms are growing exponentially. The United Nations calls it a tsunami of e-waste. “Get it right and we will see a lot less of our precious minerals, metals, and resources dumped into landfills. The benefit to industry and workers as well as the health of people and the environment could be enormous. It is crucial we swiftly employ a more circular vision in this sector”.  More than 120 countries have an annual GDP lower than the value of our growing pile of global e-waste. See also this presentation for more information. For plastic wastes that grow exponentially see this presentation. My question is how many pioneering ideas end in waste to convert these wastes into financial and environmental profits?

If we realize that 96% of innovations ended in complete failure, we may realize how much effort ended in the wastebasket. So much waste not to be circulated.

One possibility for the 3-Rs of Teams


Ideas are trees-like. They are subject to pruning, inoculations, building symbiotic relationships, having roots, fertilization of ideas, branching of ideas, blossoming of ideas, and as trees talk to each other. Make your ideas talk to each other.


Ali Anani
Ali Anani
My name is Ali Anani. I hold a Ph.D. from the University of East Anglia (UK, 1972) Since the early nineties I switched my interests to publish posts and presentations and e-books on different social media platforms.

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