Building the team
Superstars aren’t lone geniuses or dazzling independent performers
The “lone inventor” is a myth: Great innovations happen in social/ teams and networks.
- Darwin’s network and team (esp. by correspondence, also a ‘PR’ team who defended his ideas)
- Thomas Edison’s lab (lousy inventor but great at building the lab and business)
- The duos that started HP, Sun, Yahoo!, and Google (Facebook, Zuckerberg and all)
Leader’s goal = the “product” at the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design: Creative Collaborators
Who are the real superstars?
- People who spread their ideas to others
- Borrow ideas from others (and give them credit)
- and help others succeed.
GE, IDEO, Genencor, McKinsey, and P&G – very different reward systems, all the same philosophy: If you’re a low performer and good team player supportive of culture, you’ll get chances. High performer undermine the team (and fail to collaborate), you’re out:
Cooperation and information sharing is not considered in compensation decisions – if people don’t do it, they just don’t get promoted. Former Procter & Gamble CEO A.G. Lafley
Diego Rodriguez: It’s tempting to judge against big picture goals but you’ve got to be careful not to take people out of the moment, delivering a great client experience right now. Grok the gestalt of the team. Intervene or not. 3 things to watch for in terms of enlightened action:
- Cold feet. Is something freaking the team out (of innovative behaviours and decisions)?
- Are they just trying to be busy? Assist with focus (or too much focus)
- There should be some angst, even fear in the room (maybe ask provocative questions)
Look for dignity, beauty, joy and elegance
Experts, novices, and mind of the child
Put more faith in novices, less in experts (and blend them together):
- Experts: People who know what has been done, what can be done, and what can’t be done. (but these opinions can be strongly held)
- The naïve: People who don’t know what can’t be done or is impossible to do.
- Variations: Bring in people who are experts on the “wrong” thing, or a related but different thing (Edison was famous for this, e.g. with the phonograph)
Google started off knowing too little about what they couldn’t do 🙂
Ditto Jobs and Wozniak (Home-brew computing company). Steve Markkula (adult supervision)
Zuckerberg relying on Sandberg for business smarts
Deal with the bad apples In the best teams “problem” members get quick negative feedback and warnings, and if reform fails, are expelled quickly. Leaders – formal and informal: don’t duck the dirty work.
Bad is stronger than good:
- “5 to 1 rule” for encounters in personal relationships and at work
- Eliminating the negative is more important than accentuating the positive
- Bad apples – including deadbeats, downers, and rude jerks – bring down performance 30% to 40% compared to teams that don’t have them
- Distraction and contagion
- You need to clarify the culture – create the guard-rails of the group
- Are the goals clear?
- Managers job is to focus the team on the key goals
Running the team
The case for Small and stable teams
J. Richard Hackman’s rule: “No work team should have membership in the double digits …. the number of performance problems a team encounters increases exponentially as team size increases.”
“Optimal” team size is 4.6 in one study – Navy Seals “fire teams” and McKinsey engagement teams have four members
“Apple also consciously tries to behave like a startup, most notably by putting small teams on crucial projects. To wit: just two engineers wrote the code for converting Apple’s Safari browser for the iPad, a massive undertaking.” Adam Lashinsky, Inside Apple
Stable membership linked to team performance:
- Surgical teams, semiconductor start‐ups, R&D teams, and flight cockpit crews
- NTSB: 73% of flight incidents occur during the crew’s first day together; 44% on their first flight
Innovation requires extreme optimism… punctuated by input from realists and pessimists
Why optimism? It reduces the failure rate! Emotions are contagious
The self‐fulfilling prophecy
- If you believe you can, you can
- If you believe you can’t, you can’t
“Confidence in nonsense is required.” Burt Rutan
Why innovation requires a few grumpy and pessimistic people:
- They are better at finding flaws
- They are better at pulling the plug, at stopping organizations from throwing good money after bad
Happy Worriers The best of both worlds?
David Kelley argues that the key to leading innovative work is finding ways to instill creative confidence in people. Ted Talk
Money as a motivator
Psychologists and economists can show you hundreds – really thousands – of studies that show people will work harder to obtain financial rewards. But there are two big problems:
- Getting the rewards right is REALLY hard
- Money turns us into selfish loners
Steve Kerr: On the Folly of Rewarding “A” While Hoping for “B”
The power of being ‘reminded’ of money (Apple try to keep it out of staffs’ thoughts)
Nine experiments by Kathleen Vohs (involving Monopoly money):
- Less likely to give others help
- Less likely to ask for help
- Sat further away from others
- More likely to choose to work alone Didn’t realize experiments were about money – but led to selfishness and self‐sufficiency
Doing interesting work itself. Dan Pink based on Drive Ted Talk
Research on 111 groups, all studying the same problem: Stand‐up meetings were 34% shorter but just as effective.
David Darragh, CEO of Reily Foods: Has a daily 15 minute stand‐up meeting with his top team: “The rhythm that frequency generates allows relationships to develop, personal ticks to be understood, stressors to be identified, personal strengths and weaknesses to be put out in the light of day, etc. The role of stand‐up meetings is not to work on strategic issues or even to resolve an immediate issue.”
Stand up every 20-30 minutes – cardio-vascular benefits
Learn how and when to fight
Innovation happens when people respect each other – but fight like crazy over ideas.
Hallmarks of effective creative abrasion
- Strong opinions, weakly held
- Fight as if you are right, listen as if you are wrong
‘I now disagree with my own standpoint. I was wrong, let’s get on using your view
In terms of creative work: “When two people in business always agree, one of them is unnecessary.” William Wrigley
Not so in operational work, you generally want agreement around routine work
Brad Bird of Pixar Director, The Incredibles and Ratatouille “I’ve been fired for being disruptive several times… but this is the first time I’ve been hired for it”
“Everyone will get humiliated and encouraged together.”
Don’t fight when generating ideas, such as when brainstorming
Stop fighting after the decision is made – it undermines implementation
Intel motto: Disagree and then commit