What you could learn from ‘Team Genius’ by Rich Kalgaard and Michael Malone (2015, 250 pages)

How did the team that designed and delivered the US’s first ever fighter jet (P-80 Shooting Star) do it in less 143 days?

In their book ‘Team Genius’ Rich and Michael suggest that there are five things contribute to team effectiveness.

  1. Stay as small as possible, and stick to optimum group sizes.  That is 7±2, 15±3, ~50 or a maximum of ~148 (Dunbar number)
  2. Diversity matters. If you want to go fast in short time, diversity is a penalty. But, if you want to get to a better answer and you have the time, diversity is essential as it causes ‘creative abrasion’
  3. Get the setup right.  Specifically:
    1. Establish a compelling direction – the team’s task must be clear, challenging and consequential
    2. Make sure the team is:
      1. Bounded – make it  is clear who is on the team
      2. Stable – not changing (low turnover)
      3. Interdependent – the need to work together
    3. Get the mix right.  Ensure you balance experience, diversity and skill.
  4. Manage people, not process. Specifically:
    1. Work through subordinates, but maintain a connection with all team members
    2. Communicate regularly, and work to consistently improve communications
    3. Continuously monitor team health
    4. Recognise hard work and achievement
    5. Defend the team against outside challenges
    6. Manage resources carefully
    7. Support the team through major challenges and transitions
  5. Manage the team life-cycle:
    1. Teams have eight stages: formation, establishment, operational, functional, cultural, sustainable, maturation & consideration completion, end/transition
    2. If they fail early, set a challenging target or disband them
    3. Recognise the difference between good and bad failures

‘Team Genius’ provides useful insight into team dynamics.  Through personal and research, the authors provide a list of factors that are correlated to effective teams.  You should read this book to get tips on how to build better teams.

Link to the book on Amazon


Other important quotes or useful bits of information:

  • Innovative teams include creatives (20-30%), conformists (10-20%) and people who are detailed orientated (10%)
  • Converge early, diverge later as this reduces the risk that you will rejected by the team
  • “Work expands so as to fill the time available” Cyril Northcote Parkinson in the Economist
  • “The value of a network is proportional to the square of the number of connections” Metcalfe
  • “actual productivity = potential productivity – coordination & motivation loss”