What can rats, pirates, rappers teach you about building better teams?

Friday, August 24, 2018, Vol. 42, No. 34
By Terri Schlichenmeyer

You need a new way to drive sales. That’s what’s around the curve ahead, and you must prepare your business for it: driving sales, creating campaigns, making employees and shareholders both happy. But where do you start?

Try “Dream Teams: Working Together Without Falling Apart” by Shane Snow, and you’ll see what could be down the road for you.

Talk with anyone about sports and you’ll hear a lot about us and we and our team. That’s common in football, baseball, Olympic hockey and many businesses.

But it’s not always a good thing.

“When we put our heads together, we hope we’ll become better… But the reality is, we almost always don’t,” Snow says.

There’s a science behind the subject, he says, and to counteract a team that’s too slow, too ineffective or problematic, demand diversity but make it more than just about race or gender. Instead, take “diversity” to its basics and look for diverse kinds of people with different backgrounds (and yes, different races and genders). The key is to mix up modes of thinking and perspectives.

Add in a bit of friction, because you don’t want homogenous ideas or sycophants. Give your team an irritant in the form of a respectfully dissenting voice, but recognize that arguing, however gentle, may cause some employees “to freeze.” Watch that they don’t withdraw, too.

Dream Teams: Working Together Without Falling Apart

by Shane Snow

Special afterword by Sheryl Sandberg & Adam Grant

c.2018, Penguin Portfolio


286 pages

Expose team members to as many different ideas and experiences as possible, staying mindful of the task for which you’ve formed the team. Doing this can actually be quite fun: think team-building exercises and get-to-know-you games held on company time. Let your employees play and encourage the forming of shared beliefs. That’s much more important than shared goals.

Finally, remember that kicking around an idea that seems useless could lead to the “aha!” your team needs. Says Snow, “the important thing is to not ignore any perspective, no matter how weird it seems.”

Absolutely no one could argue that “Dream Teams” isn’t entertaining. It’s actually very entertaining, as it moves from Olympic tales to rats, pirates, rappers and the art world. That’s a good thing – as long as you’re not looking for quick business ideas.

Yep, there’s a lot of extra in this book: it’s extra-heavy on illustrative tales and anecdotes. It’s extra-loaded with things that seem extemporaneous and extra-unfocused when tales bounce one to another at an extra-abrupt pace.

That can lead to a challenge here: although it’s been said that humans learn best through story, and the author gives readers many, many stories from the business world, history, science and sports, what turns out to be an overabundance can tend to muddy the waters for anyone who just wants the plain old facts.

The facts are there, but it’s going to take awhile to tease them out, and even the author of this book admits to conundrums. So, if you want to be entertained with the possibility of learning, here’s your book. If you want straight info, though, “Dream Teams” will drive you to distraction.

Terri Schlichenmeyer’s reviews of business books are read in more than 260 publications in the U.S. and Canada.