In a world where the rapidity of change continually intensifies, how can businesses achieve sustainable growth? How do legacy organizations not fall into the trap of comforting mediocrity, which can quickly lead to stagnation and demise?
According to Team Genius: The New Science of High-Performing Organizations, the insightful new book by Forbes publisher Rich Karlgaard and high-tech observer Michael S. Malone, the answer is for organizations to create internal teams that can solve particular problems, create new products and services, or radically improve existing ones.
The research on teams is endless – books, papers, talks and many opinions. Yet, the media often focuses on either the lone hero or the giant enterprise, largely ignoring the role of teams. But it’s those organizations in which productive teams prosper that are most likely to achieve the nirvana of “structural sustainability.”
Why are teams critical to success?
Teams have been with us since the days of the first fire and “none succeeded without a method of organization that ultimately rested on comparatively small groups of members organized as teams.” The authors point out that teams derive much of their strength from diversity. “Real diversity” is found in teams of people who can “bring to bear varied ideas, knowledge and skills to accomplish tasks.”
A few anecdotes stand out. In one, Tom Siebel of the famous Silicon Valley software group — then 50-strong, the point at which management challenges really start to increase — complains about a promising potential new vice-president who had started to haggle for added perks. “It means that we’re not a team any more,” he laments. “Now people join the company for what they can get out of it. I knew it was coming, but I didn’t think it would be so soon.”
While arguing that the most successful teams are the most diverse, the book usefully points out that the most diverse teams are also often the least harmonious, and require the most active management.
Team Genius walks the reader helpfully through team life spans, from birth to maturity to breakup, noting that there are times when it’s wise to break up a team that has successfully completed its task. This book lays out what you need to know about a subject that’s becoming more important than ever to an organization’s success, and is itself a wonderful example of team achievement.