Team Genius: The New Science of High-Performing Organizations
Rich Karlgaard and Michael Malone
HarperBusiness/An Imprint of HarperCollins (2015)
Not all teams can accomplish something great but they can be great
Team Genius, is a splendid example of team achievement, which lays out what you need to know about a subject that’s becoming more important than ever to an organization’s success. While this book is not written with a church setting in mind; there are many implications in this book especially for church leadership and actually many of the concepts may be easier to use when forming various teams in a ministry setting than in other settings because of the ability to create short-term teams of various sizes for various projects. One can even think in terms of missional community size in the 50+-150 size or even church size in those sizes and anything above that think in terms of church size on. There is also much that can be applied from this book in correlation to small groups and the sizes, structure, life cycles of them.
Team Genius helpfully walks the reader through team life spans, from birth to maturity to break up. Indeed, sometimes it’s wise to break up a team that has successfully completed its task. For one thing, recruiters will be after certain team members, and teammates will be expecting promotions. Thus, wise management may be able to take strong members and put them in charge of new teams. In contemplating these same dynamics as they relate to groups…upon maturity of the group disbanding the group allows for further growth as the members go different directions and take on new challenges of leading new groups and investing in the lives of others.
One of Rich Karlgaard and Michael Malone’s key insights is that work really gets done by informal teams rather than by standing committees or groups assigned to formal projects of finite duration. Think in terms of high-impact collaboration that is often spontaneous and improvisational rather than initiated and supervised by senior management.
Those who engage disciplined collaboration “take their organizations to higher levels of performance…know where the opportunities for collaboration exist and when to say no to lesser projects…avoid the trap of overestimating benefits and over-collaborating…tear down the barriers that separate their employees…set powerful and unifying goals and forge a value of teamwork…cultivate T-shaped management…help employees build nimble, not bloated, networks…look within themselves and work to change their own leadership styles…And in cultivating collaboration in the right way, they set their people free to achieve great things not possible when they are divided.”
There are some interesting insights the reader can gain from this book in contemplating teams of different size and structure especially in regards to size and personality compatibility of team members. Below is a quote that stood out to me from this book:
As a group’s size increases, adding people yields diminishing returns on individual contributions.
Through this book you will come to understand:
- Why good “chemistry” often makes for the least effective teams.
- Why cognitive diversity yields the highest performance gains.
- Why groups of 7(±2) and 150 are magic sizes for teams.
- Why “pairs” are so special and how many types there are.
- What the life cycle of a team is.
I was especially intrigued by the teams of 7 ±2 and the sociology that goes along with this team size as the “optimal” size for teams. There is much correlation between that insight and small groups of similar sizes based on the people in them.
These are among the dozens of passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Karlgaard and Malone’s coverage:
o Apple (Pages 7-15 and 119-120)
o Hewlett-Packard (22-29)
o Diversity (65-91)
o Challenges of diversity (72-74)
o Leaders (92-100)
o Interdependance (94-98)
o Pairs (101-159)
o Darrell Anderson and the Bismarck High School cross country team (105-112)
o Magic Moment pairs (111-121)
o Chained-Together- by-Success pairs (121-124)
o Yin-and-Yang pairs (131-133)
o Remember-the-Force pairs (141-145)
o Distant-Idol pairs (143-149)
o Sword-and-Shield pairs (149-155)
o Andrew Grove (150-151 and 171-174)
o San Francisco 49ers and the West Coast offense (161-165)
o Controlled Randomness (162-164)
o Frank Chance and the Chicago Cubs (175-178)
o Creating and Managing trios (178-182)
o “Two Pizza” rule (188-189)
o George Washington (210-214 and (246-249)
o All Teams Have Life Cycles (215-235)
o “The Retirement and Death of Teams (236-250)
Throughout the “Life Cycles” of Teams chapter and the Retirement and Death of Team I was reminded again of the Life Cycles of small groups as well as the formation of new groups and ending of groups that have run their course.
I wholeheartedly agree with Rich Karlgaard and Michael Malone’s concluding remarks: “The teams in which we work, and the teams we lead, may not change the world. But they can make the world a better place, make our company (and everyone who depends on it) more successful and secure, and give ourselves and our teammates a more rewarding and fulfilling career. And most of all, we can increase the odds of our team’s success. Given all of that, why shouldn’t we want to apply the latest discoveries and experiences about teams to our own lives and careers? Why wouldn’t we want to create and be part of a team of genius?”
Every organization of which you are a part is composed of teams, and every one of those teams is currently at some point in its life cycle. Some of these teams are clearly dysfunctional; others are suboptimal in their performance; and still others are approaching the end of their usefulness.
Even great teams aren’t always being challenged to do all that they are capable of doing.
At the foundation of Team Genius is this very simple truth: To miss the importance of teams is a costly mistake and an avoidable one. Thanks to the latest research by sociologists, anthropologists, neuroscientists, cognitive researchers, historians, and behaviorists, we have a better understanding of how teams are created, composed, and operated than at any time in human history. These discoveries are waiting to be put to use. Smart organizations will put them to use.