Jan, 2019

Dream Teams by Shane Snow

THE BIG IDEA: To build a dream team, find independent thinkers from diverse backgrounds. Then ensure there is just enough tension to generate creative solutions but not so much tension that the team is dysfunctional.

INTRO

  • Between 1960 and 1990 , the Soviet national hockey team won nearly every international match it played. It was one of the best sports teams of all time. The same Soviet players underperformed when split up in the NHL. Then Detroit Red Wings coach Scotty Bowman reunited them and they won the Stanley Cup again.
  • Research shows, that for some tasks, individuals always outperform teams. But for hard things in work and life, for thing that require creativity and innovation, teams are required. 
  • Humans are built for collaboration. There’s science behind this kind of magic that results in magical teamwork.

CH 1: BUDDY COPS AND MOUNTAINTOPS

  • The Pinkerton detective agency foiled a plot to assassinate Lincoln. A female detective Kate Karne provided the insight needed to save Lincoln. 
  • Adding women to law enforcement improves performance not because they are smarter but because they add a different perspective that forces others to think differently.
  • These two parts of our mental tool kit — perspective and heuristics — go hand in hand. Our teammate’s diverse heuristic allowed him to find a better solution .
  • If you want innovation, put people with different specialties together. It helps prevent groupthink. 
  • Dr. Scott Page, professor of “complex systems” says teams with diverse mental tool kits consistently outperform groups of “the best and the brightest.”
  • Cognitive diversity is a key element of teams that exceed the sums of their parts.
  • Routine problems don’t require much cognitive diversity, while novel problems benefit from it greatly.
  • The more diverse the thinkers in a company’s higher ranks, especially its boardroom, the better a company performs.
  • Cities with more immigrants from different parts of the world tend to produce more patents.
  • This runs counter to the advice that we tend to get in many of our organizations. “Get more people like that on the bus!” “Let’s double down on our strengths!” “She’s not a culture fit!”

CH 2: TROUBLE IN SHAOLIN

  • The merger of Daimler and Chrysler failed because they couldn’t resolve organizational cultural differences.
  • Hip-hop was found on battles (rap battles) but Wu-Tang Clan was able to use friction to drive creativity and change music history.
  • The Tension Zone is the zone in which there is enough tension to drive innovation but not enough tension to explode. 
  • The Wright brothers would resolve arguments by taking turns arguing both sides. This helped decouple arguments from ego.
  • Couples that know how to argue last the longest.
  • Businesses that rank high in “innovation”—the ones that grow quickly and produce game-changing products and services—tend to encourage the airing and clashing of diverse viewpoints. Not just having differences, but speaking up.
  • Companies that don’t innovate tend to make people follow a single, “approved” way of thinking.
  • “Having a manager who ignores you is even more detrimental than having a manager who primarily focuses on your weaknesses.”
  • When steel rubs against steel, it makes both blades sharper.

CH 3: THE MAGIC CIRCLE

  • Argentina has one of the largest populations of Jews in the world. They are well-known for being friendly to Jews. Why? Because the culture encourages everyone to play soccer together. 
  • Playing together resolves tension, breaks down barriers, and builds friendships.
  • You can learn more about someone in an hour of play than in a year of talk.
  • RZA’s rap battles were actually a kind of game that helped dissolve tension and keep driving creativity. 

CH 4: ANGELIC TROUBLEMAKERS

  • Picasso’s most productive years as a painter was when he was living with a girlfriend who pushed him out of his comfort zone.
  • Cognitive entrenchment is when our brains become inflexible because of certain habits and heuristics. These habits and heuristics that are useful in prior situations are no longer useful. 
  • The longer people work together, the more similar their work styles tend to become. The business world often calls them “best practices,” but psychologists correctly call them “groupthink.” If we’re not aware of them, they can stifle innovation and peak performance.
  • In Dream Teams, there is often a teammate who can give us a nudge away from groupthink. 
  • For developing new insights, it’s often more helpful to study the extremes (outliers) instead of studying the typical (focus groups.) Eg. Dominatrix-for-hire and comfortable shoes. (Tim Ferriss: but ignore those who are an outlier bc of natural ability or a head start.) 
  • Dr. Charlan Nemeth of UC Berkeley spent her career studying the science of human influence. Having a naysayer in the group made the rest of the group think harder. Dissenters stimulate the kinds of thought processes that lead to progress.

CH 5: THE BLACK SQUARE

  • Sometimes bad ideas can be useful because a bad idea can be very good at pointing us in a new direction.
  • Eg. International Dome Symposium in Winooski, the painting The Black Square in Moscow
  • Provocation spurs us to action.
  • Cognitive expansion happens when we add cognitively diverse people to our team and pay attention to them.
  • Dissent helps groups think harder about problems together.
  • Many of our most successful modern companies — from Apple to Airbnb — seemed like bad ideas in the beginning.

CH 6: WELCOME TO PIRATELAND

  • Shared values are long-term. Shared goals are short-term. 
  • Companies who talk about shared values a lot will tend to unify their people quickly and effectively. They have low turnover and relatively stable businesses.
  • Values that are too strict and cult-like will tend to stifle dissent, stifle innovation, and stagnate a company.
  • Some organizations try to combat stifling values by making “creativity” and “experimentation” values themselves.
  • Superordinate goals can get different people to work together. Play and humor can depressurize groups that have too much tension between them.
  • Values are not created equal.  Values that help us include different kinds of people and ideas are the kinds of values we want our teams to share.
  • Eg. Battle of New Orleans, Rattlers vs Eagles, Built to Last companies.

CH 7: WHEN MALCOLM CHANGED HIS MIND

  • People who are open-minded are more likely to consider creative solutions and to innovate.
  • What does it take for humans to become open-minded?
  • The answer is something psychologists call “intellectual humility.”
  • How do you increase open-minded and intellectual humility?
  • People who travel become better at  “idea flexibility” or being able to solve problems. They are more open-minded.
  • People who actually live in foreign places are even more likely to have high intellectual humility than those who just visit.
  • Dr. Galinsky and his colleagues found that graduate students who had lived abroad were more likely to consider out-of-the-box solutions to problems in group projects.
  • Neuroscientists find that multilingual people’s brains do look physically different. 
  • Eg. Malcolm X’s transformation after his pilgimage to Mecca.
  • Eg. Saul the Christian persecutor became Paul the Christian apostle.

CH 8: OXYTOCIN, A LOVE STORY

  • Stories have power. Stories can activate oxytocin and empathy, or they can turn on primal fear .
  • Stories Asians told others about themselves helped change their position in America. Eg. George Takei and Bruce Lee.
  • Stories Hollywood told about gays generated oxytocin + empathy and helped increase acceptance of gays in America.
  • Anytime people experience character-driven stories, their brains pump out more oxytocin .
  • Positive social encounters release oxytocin — things like hugs , acts of kindness , and emotional stories .
  • Every one of the world’s greatest sports dynasties had something surprising in common: their players, and in particular their team captains, had a whole lot of humility.
  • This isn’t just humility; it’s intellectual humility. It requires being open to and willing to change when change is hard.
  • People who read a book or more per month, the data shows, are significantly more likely to be have intellectual humility. 
  • Readers experience more stories, have more empathy, and are more open-minded and have more intellectually humility. 

DREAM TEAMS CHEAT SHEET

  • Recruit for “culture add” not “culture fit.”
  • Recruit for ability to elevate team, rather than for individual stats.
  • Determine team members’ dimensions of internal and external differences that could lead to productive tension and innovation. 
  • Make sure everyone on the team knows each other’s “superpowers” or unique abilities.
  • Use play and humor to depressurize group tension.
  • Give explicit permission (or even rewards) for dissent and productive criticism.
  • Have team members get to know each other’s stories.
  • Debate instead of brainstorm; when necessary, switch sides of the debate.
  • Speak candidly.
  • It’s the leader’s job to make sure tension does not get personal.
  • Seek diverse sources of information.
  • Develop and prioritize curiosity.
  • Pay attention to outsiders, weirdos, and far-out ideas.
  • When possible, rally teams around superordinate goals.
  • Celebrate the uniqueness of the subgroups within the organization.
  • Allow subgroup members to have their own values.
  • Create unique rituals that the organization can do together to bond.
  • Spend significant time immersing yourself in places with cultures different.
  • Learn a language.
  • Read more books.