Dream Teams | Shane Snow

Summary of: Dream Teams: Working Together Without Falling Apart
By: Shane Snow


In today’s fast-paced world, the secret to driving progress and achieving success lies in the ability to work efficiently as a group. The book ‘Dream Teams: Working Together Without Falling Apart’ by Shane Snow dives deep into this concept, offering critical insights on how to build teams that can tackle challenges with enthusiasm, diversity, and intellectual humility. The summary delves into the power of diverse teams, the importance of cultivating an environment that embraces conflict, and the significance of empathetic connections among team members. Get ready to explore unconventional and intriguing examples that illustrate the fascinating dynamics of dream teams.

Unleashing Diversity’s Power

In 1974, a female FBI agent named Chris Jung managed to serve a subpoena to a well-guarded Mafia boss by going undercover at his daughter’s wedding. This story carries two crucial lessons on the importance of diversity in problem-solving. First, having a diverse team increases the chances of finding innovative solutions. Second, diverse perspectives can bring fresh, unconventional thinking to any situation. Gender and racial diversity within teams lead to a broader range of opinions and experiences, challenging preconceived ideas and biases. A study conducted in 2013 involving around 200 self-identified Democrats or Republicans supports this notion, highlighting that when preparing to present solutions to opposing party members, participants developed stronger arguments. Thus, more diverse teams result in better strength-tested decisions, ensuring success on multiple fronts.

Mastering Conflict for Success

Frequent disputes don’t necessarily signal issues in long-lasting relationships, as evidenced by studies from the Gottman Institute. Constructive conflict demonstrates willingness to resolve problems, while silence can spiral into unaddressed issues. Within organizations, a lack of communication between merger partners Chrysler and Daimler resulted in massive failure instead of blending their strengths. The groundbreaking Wu-Tang Clan harnessed conflicts for innovation, while the Wright brothers used a deliberately combative method to avoid harm from festering disputes. The secret to success often lies in how conflicts are effectively utilized.

Couples who constantly bicker may surprisingly remain together for years, with relationship experts attributing it to their commitment to finding resolutions. Contrarily, not communicating at all can fester unresolved problems and escalate to more severe consequences. This concept is applicable to organizations as well, where silence can pave the way for future issues.

Consider the case of the Detroit-based Chrysler and German auto manufacturer Daimler. Their joint venture DaimlerChrysler, worth half of its previous value merely three years post-merger, ultimately failed not due to cultural differences, but to a lack of dialogue among their employees. Termed “cognitive friction,” the stifling environment of non-interaction led to organizational silence, fueling failure.

While conflict itself may seem negative, it often depends on its management. The iconic Wu-Tang Clan exemplifies this through their fusion of diverse characters and musical inspirations, pushing the boundaries of their genre by capitalizing on their internal disagreements. However, unchecked conflicts can also trigger toxic animosity, negating any creative benefits.

Even the legendary Wright brothers acknowledged the risks of escalating tensions, employing a unique approach to prevent hostility from reaching boiling points. By exchanging positions during arguments and debating each other’s points, they successfully detached, reassessed their positions, and argued against the subject matter rather than each other. The key to fruitful outcomes can often be traced back to the art of managing and utilizing conflicts to one’s advantage.

Soccer Unites Argentine Society

The Wright brothers’ harmonious approach may not be universally applicable, but in gauging the Argentine society at the turn of the twentieth century, soccer emerges as an extraordinary force bringing diverse communities together. As cities were increasingly dominated by soccer-loving children, it transcended barriers of race, religion, and social class. The sport fostered a shared ‘in-group’ identity, inspiring empathy and trust among previously warring factions in Buenos Aires. More broadly, engaging in communal activities can challenge automatic, potentially xenophobic, reactions triggered by our brain’s amygdala, cultivating a more inclusive and harmonious society.

At the turn of the twentieth century, Argentina underwent a significant cultural shift as the nation’s self-image transformed from rugged, cowboy-esque gauchos to urban-dwelling youngsters known as pibes with a penchant for soccer. This passion for the beautiful game became an effective ice-breaker among kids from diverse backgrounds, melting away racial, religious, and class divides.

In Buenos Aires, soccer transcended the barriers of society and the explosion of street and stadium matches gradually diminished animosities among different groups. Research demonstrates that when individuals play together, they perceive each other as part of the same ‘in-group.’ As a result, mutual empathy and trust flourish.

Our brain’s amygdala is primarily responsible for categorizing people into ‘in-groups’ and ‘out-groups.’ The former are seen as trustworthy individuals with similarities to ourselves, while the latter draw suspicion. A slightly unusual behavior or foreign language may be enough to activate the amygdala and release adrenaline, heightening heart rate and blood pressure, leading to xenophobic responses.

However, we can choose not to be governed by our body’s chemistry. By engaging in shared activities, like the pibes in Argentina playing soccer together, we can broaden our ‘in-groups’ and foster a more unified, harmonious environment. The sport promotes trust and empathy amongst players, serving as a useful tool to bridge social gaps and enhance societal cohesion.

Evolving Winning Teams

Challenging the notion of “Don’t change a winning team,” this passage highlights the importance of adaptation, innovation, and the willingness to make necessary changes. Using the example of G-Corp’s decline and revival, the author emphasizes how teams can get stuck in their ways, requiring external help to shift their perspectives. Introducing new team members who question established opinions can stimulate renewed creativity and success in problem-solving.

“Don’t change a winning team” is a piece of advice you might often hear in the world of business. While comforting, this seemingly wise guidance can lead to stagnating success when teams become complacent and resist change.

Consider G-Corp’s story. In the 1980s, G-Corp made waves with the highly successful invention of a medication-releasing blister cushion. However, complacency soon set in, and their subsequent product offerings failed to impress, causing sales to decline. Realizing that change was necessary, G-Corp sought help from consulting firm Sense Worldwide.

Under the guidance of Sense Worldwide, G-Corp adopted a customer-focused approach by setting up focus groups to better understand their target users’ needs. By directly engaging with customers and developing new product lines to address different blister types, G-Corp revitalized its once winning team and regained its footing.

The G-Corp experience underlines the importance of sometimes bringing in an outsider to challenge established internal perspectives. An experiment in 2009 demonstrated this point when groups of American students attempted to solve a murder mystery. When a new team member, playing the role of the devil’s advocate, joined after 20 minutes, the likelihood of solving the mystery doubled. It wasn’t because the newcomer delivered the solution, but rather that the existing team members had to defend their choices and open up to alternative paths of thinking.

In conclusion, while victorious teams may be tempted to stick to their tried and true methods, it is essential not to let past success hinder innovation and progress. Embracing change and new perspectives can help transform a once-winning team into a continuously thriving and evolving powerhouse.

Unleashing Art’s Untapped Potential

Kazimir Malevich’s Black Square defied traditional art norms by breaking away from the need to portray reality, leading to new artistic directions and even political consequences. This shift inspired the famous Bauhaus movement which redefined the role of art in various industries. Furthermore, even bad ideas, such as the controversial plan to cover Winooski, Vermont with a dome, can unexpectedly foster beneficial outcomes – highlighting the importance of not dismissing ideas without proper consideration.

As the author gazed upon Kazimir Malevich’s Black Square painting at the Tretyakov Gallery, he couldn’t help but feel underwhelmed. Seemingly a simple black square canvas, its true importance lies in the context it shattered. Previously, art typically aimed to represent reality and beauty, with even Picasso’s distorted works attempting to capture some sense of reality. Malevich’s Black Square, however, liberated art from this realism constraint, allowing it to serve as a medium for more profound visual communication and cognitive expansion.

Following in Malevich’s revolutionary footsteps, his student El Lissitzky designed propaganda posters for the Communist Party in Russia. Recognizing their powerful influence over the masses, Lissitzky and fellow artists sought refuge in Germany during the 1920s. There, they founded the Bauhaus movement, which transformed the role of art in industry and advertising on a global scale.

The powerful impact of ideas like Black Square demonstrates that one should not dismiss them without proper exploration. Intriguingly, even unpopular and seemingly bad ideas can bear fruit. For instance, city planners in Winooski, Vermont wanted to use federal funds to build a dome over the town in 1979 to reduce heating costs, attracting widespread derision. President Jimmy Carter had to intervene to prevent its construction. Regardless, the publicity Winooski received eventually garnered funding for a new hydroelectric plant, generating more cost-effective heating. Ultimately, it became one of the largest funded projects per capita in US history.

The lesson here is simple yet profound: Never underestimate the potential of any idea – good or bad – as they might just lead to remarkable outcomes.

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