Having a super goal helps a team form an elite identity. Together, a super goal and clear identity help drive team performance, and ultimately drive the success of new products.
The term “super goal” doesn’t necessarily mean a stretch goal or an outlandish, unachievable target. And “super identity” isn’t about putting on a mask and cape.
A super goal—or superordinate goal as academics call it—is a goal worth completing that requires different groups to cooperatively achieve. A super identity, or superordinate identity, comes about when team members feel part of an elite group—one which remains a part of the rest of the organisation while operating separately.
A super identity usually has a common objective of the highest importance, with clearly defined deliverables and short deadlines that require intense collaboration between team members.
Super identity: key to team success
A super identity is one of the most vital elements for high performing teams, especially when it comes to new products.
A new product team’s success is more heavily influenced by top management support and organisational politics than it is internal team factors (e.g. ways of working). New products need people from across different functions and groups in the business to come together.
Having a super goal usually means you’ve transcended differences between organisational departments and functions. Transcending, rather than confronting, makes you more successful at collaboratively creating solutions across silos.
A super goal, with top management support, means your team now has the foundation for a super identity—that is, your team can have the sense of being part of a small, elite group.
This super identity has been shown in multiple studies to be a strong positive factor in successful teams building new products:
- A study of 141 cross functional product development teams found the strength of super identity was one of the few factors positively correlated to a team’s new product success.
- A study of 118 teams focused on super identity shows how it enhances the performance of new product development teams.
- A review of research identifies strategic alignment between functions as a key success factor, which a super identity is able to provide to a cross-functional team.
How to get a super identity
First, you need a super goal. A super goal needs you to find an outcome that will facilitate alignment across the organisation, across the different silos and functions. It needs to be something everyone can rally behind and support. Short deadlines and clear objectives will also help.
A super goal is just one part of a super identity. Here are a few other ways research tells us you can help your team gain a super identity, so that it can reach higher performance:
- Encourage the team to take risks
- Don’t force social cohesion – a level of friction is acceptable
- Transcend rather than confront differences
- High autonomy and dependency on each other to achieve the outcome
- Continued top leadership support
- Encourage the super identity itself
- Don’t discourage membership of someone’s original group or function
- Hitt et al, Corporate Entrepreneurship and Cross-Functional Fertilization: Activation, Process, and Disintegration of a New Product Design Team, Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 1999.
- Pinto & Pinto, Project Team Communication and Cross Functional Cooperation in New Program Development, Journal of Product Innovation Management, 1990.
- Majchrzak, More, & Faraj, Transcending Knowledge Differences in Cross-Functional Teams, Organizational Science, 2011.
- Sethi, Smith, & Park, Cross Functional Product Development Teams, Creativity, and the Innovativeness of New Consumer Products, Journal of Marketing Research, 2001.
- Sethi, Superordinate identity in cross-functional product development teams: Its antecedents and effect on new product performance, Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 2000.
- Holland, Gaston, & Gomes, Critical success factors for cross-functional teamwork in new product development, International Journal of Management Reviews, 2003.
CEO & Founder
Scott has been involved in the launch and growth of 61+ products and has published over 120 articles and videos that have been viewed over 120,000 times. Terem’s product development and strategy arm, builds and takes clients tech products to market, while the joint venture arm focuses on building tech spinouts in partnership with market leaders.