The Emmy Award and Golden Globe winning hit Fox sitcom Brooklyn 99 is one of my favourite TV shows. I want to be friends with Jake Peralta, I want to be mentored by Ray Holt, and my wife has a lot of Amy Santiago characteristics. The detectives from the 99 (said “the nine-nine”) make up a diverse, ass-kicking team that has fun while keeping streets safe. Here are six workplace collaboration tips from Brooklyn 99.
Build strength through diversity
From ethnicity and cultural heritage to sexual orientation. From street smarts to book smarts. From Baby Boomers to Millennials. However the modern workplace measures diversity, the 99 showcases the value in numerous ways. Charles Boyle is a grinder who ponders cases while savoring brie. Jake Peralta is a problem-solving savant who loves puzzles and thrives under pressure. Amy Santiago delivers zero-error paperwork always. Rosa Diaz is terrifying. Gina is probably smarter than everyone else and possesses incredible digital savvy. Hitchcock and Scully leverage experience and happenstance to add value to the team. Sargent Jeffers cultivates the right conditions for his team to flourish. And Captain Ray Holt – an openly gay African American police offer since the 1980s – is a hero-leader who embodies pretty much all the qualities of the team.
Diverse teams are smarter lend a variety of perspectives to every issue make leading to greater objectivity. According to Facebook’s lead engineer Regina Dugan, “You have to get to the place where you aren’t made comfortable by the fact that everyone is the same, but rather feel inspired by how different we are. We get better problem-solving that way.”
Breed radical transparency!
There are few secrets between colleagues in the precinct. Some things are uncovered because the detectives are always detecting, but most things are out in the open thanks to a culture of sharing. Buffer’s Chief Happiness Officer, Carolyn Kopprasch, argues that transparency generates incredible trust on teams, which is reflected in how The 99 operates. Gina lives her life out loud and live-tweets meetings and/or drama in the precinct. Terry can’t stop sharing baby pictures. Jake and Amy copy HR on their emails. Charles wears his heart on his sleeve and overshares about everything from fermenting yogurt in his desk to talkative foreplay with his fiancé. “By promoting ways for employees to have a voice and for staying connected with each other, you are able to create not only a culture of transparency, but a responsive organization as well,” argues Entrepreneur’s Craig Cincotta. The team’s open and shared knowledge of each other enabled Jake and Captain Holt to reveal Madeline Wunch’s spy in Season Two because Jake knew the team so well and eliminated them as suspects. Being transparent drives team productivity and shared outcomes.
Cultivate a sense of urgency
Productivity is enhanced when folks share a commitment to getting the job done. In fact, a recent HBR article by Adi Ignatius highlights that HP’s CEO Meg Whitman is turning around the company in part because she is cultivating a sense of urgency: “…we worked very hard on the sense of urgency and running to the fire. Our business is complicated, but usually customers’ problems don’t get better with age. They get better when you go fix them.” Running into the fire feels like just another day for the team in The 99.
Employ team-based problem solving
Diverse teams aren’t just smarter, but they also are better at solving problems collaboratively. In one of my favourite episodes – “House Mouses” – Charles helps Captain Holt look passed his unconscious bias towards a celebrated flutist while Jake, Terry, Scully, and Hitchcock bring down a drug cartel with a combination of strategic thinking, sweat and the ability to roll up stairs in an office chair. Oh, and Gina, Rosa and Amy overcome phobias to understand each other better and advance feminism. HBR’s David Rock and Heidi Grant pretty much summarize the above shenanigans with actual research:
Diverse teams are more likely to constantly reexamine facts and remain objective. They may also encourage greater scrutiny of each member’s actions, keeping their joint cognitive resources sharp and vigilant. By breaking up workplace homogeneity, you can allow your employees to become more aware of their own potential biases — entrenched ways of thinking that can otherwise blind them to key information and even lead them to make errors in decision-making processes.
Foster a culture of mentorship
Santiago and Holt engage in the most mentoring in the precinct, which has included Thanksgiving-toast-editing, tolerance-of-hat-wearing, and ongoing career coaching. Peer coaching and a culture of mutual direct feedback is ample, too. Gina models just how easy life is to Terry on multiple occasions and she lets him know about it. Charles collects a lot of feedback about his culinary interests and how they impact the squad. Jake’s colleagues and senior officers constantly advise him on ways to channel his immaturity and playfulness in ways that don’t negatively impact the team. Inc’s Cassie Hughes and Gabrey Means believe that fostering a culture of mentorship in your team members can address everything from they behave to how they handle failure:
While many invaluable mentor/mentee relationships have begun as magical moments of kismet, you can reap the benefits more widely by weaving mentorship into the way your teams work on a daily basis. This ensures that your more seasoned team members are actively and continually passing on critical skills and knowledge while simultaneously modeling mentorship behavior to junior staff, so that they, in turn, will continue to pay it forward to the next set of new recruits.
Have fun with it
The 99 is a fun place. They competitively gamify Halloween with hilarious talent-revealing results. The detectives relish inventing undercover personas. Sometimes Holt even tells jokes! Experiencing joy at work and having a chance to play drives engagement and fosters wellbeing. People also learn more when they laugh and have fun because humour can reduce fear and anxiety about a topic as well as make tough material more accessible. The contagious nature of humour “naturally builds a sense of community” in classrooms, neighbourhoods and workplaces. It’s no wonder that the Brooklyn 99 precinct is more of a family than it is a collection of employees.