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GREAT IDEAS: Dream Teams by Shane Snow

Key points on working together without falling apart

The science of human behaviour can be applied to business.

Humans are born to collaborate. The whites of our eyes are larger than any other primate so we can indicate to others what direction we’re looking at. Our vocal chords are more nuanced. Our brains have a high degree of neuroplasticity so we can learn, adapt and change our minds more than other animals. This helps with teamwork. We get better by having others help us change our thinking.

We are wary of new ideas because of stranger danger

In-group and out-group psychology describes how anyone new to a group is categorised as safe or a potential threat. Nowadays it’s not very useful. Anyone who expresses ideas which is outside what we know, we view as possibly dangerous. This is ancient brain wiring below the surface. It stabs us in the back today.

A good team can beat a team of better individuals

The famous Red Army Soviet Ice Hockey Team won decade after decade in part because different approaches to coaching created a unique style that was adaptable and confusing to other teams. One coach made them do chess and ninja moves. The other was a disciplinarian. Individually, each player was proven not to be very good, but when playing as a team they were unstoppable.

Finding the best solution is like hiking through fog

Any problem can be represented by a mountain range – each peak is a good, better or best solution. But trying to choose the best solution is like hiking through fog. You may not be able to see everything. A team that has people with different, even REALLY different, perspectives and approaches to problems is like having them dropped off by helicopter on a different part of the mountain.

Tension is needed to achieve great things

You don’t get a cake unless you mix the ingredients together. Mixing a team can painful and it can be threatening. We avoid conflict. But it’s that very tension, that mixing that gets us energised, creative and able to do great things. Better to be in a group with some tension than not (but be nice about it).

Hire for people who stretch the team

We know we need to hire groups of different people. But in the effort to get along, we teach everyone to be the same. Only speak up when they are fitting in to the common talking points. We reward people who fall in line, not buck the norm. Hiring only leads to better results if you hire different people (like a black sheep in a family) and reward them for doing different things.

Use stories as a way of identifying different people for your team.

At the job interview, find out their story. Ask “What’s something you know how to do that most people don’t?” or “Which book had the most impact on you?”  Then, let them know they’re in the team because they’re unique and that’s what you want.  Later, sit at dinner and learn about their family. Then when you argue, you may not agree, but you’ll see each other as a human.