Few tips that would change your perspective on winning Teams and Leadership from Hal our “adaptive generalist” inspired by Shane Snow’s book “Dream Teams, Working Together Without Falling Apart”, in which the author reveals the counter-intuitive reasons why so many partnerships and groups break down–and why some break through.
Here are eight takeaways in the form of charts that summarizes the process in which binds together the visionaries that makes the best “winning” teams.
Amazon’s Jeff Bezos got it right when he famously said, of his corporate strategy, “We are stubborn on vision. We are flexible on details.” It turns out that this is a powerful combination. Leaders who can motivate their teams to work toward a grand shared vision, but who encourage their teams to adapt in order to get there, are the ones who change the world, history shows.
But the world’s most successful leaders are not just flexible. They’re opinionated, too; that’s how they convince us to follow them into the unknown, even when they change their minds. We conflate strength in leadership with being stalwart and stoic—but it turns out that when it comes to problem solving and decision-making, changing your mind in light of new information, plus the ability to get people on board, is a magical combination.
If we’re willing to be flexible and change, our teams can make use of the thing that makes teams smarter than their smartest member: cognitive friction. This means that the best teams are able to smash different ideas and diverse ways of thinking together. In other words, they’re willing to change and fight.
The ancient Greeks said that virtue was the mean between two vices. If being stubborn and unwilling to change is a vice, then its opposite is being too willing to change—gullible even. The virtue in the middle of these two is called Intellectual Humility.
Different And United
The kind of team that can have a successful battle between viewpoints requires cognitive diversity—different heads with different things inside of them. These teams, by nature, will be made of people with different personal opinions and values. Research shows that, contrary to decades of popular misconception, if a team has a strong purpose, vision, and shared goals, it doesn’t need shared values (beyond, you know, being honest and not killing each other) in order to be great. In fact, diverging values are correlated with the kind of cognitive diversity that gives the most innovative teams their great potential.
Of course, those diverse teams need to keep the relationships between them from boiling over—the cognitive friction that they leverage from their cognitive diversity needs to always be about ideas, and not personal. Therefore, the ideal team player is one who can provide full personal and emotional support for her teammates, while adding different ideas and cognitive friction.
The great civil rights activist Bayard Rustin said that every community needs “angelic troublemakers” to push us to see what we need to see, and to go further than we think we can go. Teams that get along well often find themselves in a position of not enough cognitive friction. And that’s where it pays to invite a little trouble into their thinking process.
Finally, to change the world, we need to believe that a better future is possible. That’s optimism. However, to achieve that balance of cognitive friction and intellectual humility, it pays to combine that optimism with skepticism. No, these aren’t opposites. Skepticism is not taking everything at face value. If you believe we can make a brighter future, but you don’t accept everything you see, you might just be the teammate the world needs.
Inspired from Shane Snow’s book “Dream Teams, Working Together Without Falling Apart” and other articles in the media on the subject matter.