Dream Teams
Shane Snow

Dream Teams - Book Summary

Working Together Without Falling Apart

Duration: 27:37
Release Date: November 11, 2023
Book Author: Shane Snow
Categories: Management & Leadership, Entrepreneurship, Corporate Culture
Duration: 27:37
Release Date: November 11, 2023
Book Author: Shane Snow
Categories: Management & Leadership, Entrepreneurship, Corporate Culture

In this episode of 20 Minute Books, we delve into "Dream Teams", a fascinating exploration by Shane Snow about what it truly takes to create a high-performing team. Published in 2018, this book is chock-full of captivating and eccentric examples from diverse industries and eras, unraveling the science that underpins dream teams, what made them extraordinarily successful, and how their strategies can be applied in today's context.

Author Shane Snow, an award-winning journalist, and the co-founder of the content technology company, Contently, is no stranger to delivering compelling narratives. He's the best-selling author of "Smartcuts" and co-author of "The Storytelling Edge". His knack for storytelling coupled with his insights make "Dream Teams" a riveting read.

So, who should immerse themselves in the pages of "Dream Teams"? If you're a frustrated team member yearning for a more harmonious and productive work environment, or a company manager striving to elevate your team's performance, this book is a treasure trove of practical insights. Even for the skeptics who doubt that management books can be engaging and enjoyable, "Dream Teams" might just change your mind. Tune in as we dissect this remarkable book.

Unlock the secrets of creating a successful team while immersing in enthralling tales.

The coveted "dream team" — a concept aspired to by all businesses, sports clubs, and creative groups alike. Yet, it seems more like a fable than a feasible reality. Let's admit, group endeavors can occasionally become nightmarish, and the mention of "team building activities" can stir terror in our hearts. But these exercises exist for a reason.

The potential of a robust team is well recognized. A thriving group achievement not only benefits the individual members but also propels the collective goal forward. The key, however, is not to perceive the "dream team" as a mythical entity. There are definite principles that, if employed, can ensure your team's peak performance.

With Shane Snow as our torchbearer, navigating this path becomes intriguing. He doesn't merely serve dull anecdotes from corporate boardrooms. Instead, he pulls out lessons from the vibrant tapestry of human history. It's a delightfully enlightening journey and an effective way to engrave crucial principles in your mind.

Through this narrative, we'll delve into the components that forge a dream team and equip you with the insights, frameworks, and motivation to construct one on your own.

In this ride, you'll discover:

which hip-hop ensemble should be your role model,

the unique ways the Wright Brothers handled disagreements, and

the rudiments of admiring modern art.

The power of diversity: varying backgrounds, genders, and perspectives enrich team success.

Picture this — it's 1974. The FBI is on a relentless pursuit to serve a subpoena to a Mafia boss residing in Newark, New Jersey. Back then, the law had a clear stance: a subpoena had to be personally handed over to compel the recipient's court appearance. The Mafia boss, basking in his perceived invincibility, erected a human fortress of bodyguards around him, thwarting any FBI agent's attempt to deliver the subpoena.

Enter Chris Jung, a rookie female agent, who contrived a brilliant stratagem. She would infiltrate the Mafia boss's daughter's wedding under the guise of a guest and personally hand over the subpoena to the unsuspecting boss. Being a woman in a male-dominated realm, she wasn’t immediately suspect and, thus, successfully accomplished her mission at the Mafia wedding.

This story illuminates two crucial lessons. Firstly, a diverse team composition enhances the likelihood of devising the best solution. Secondly, as evidenced by Jung's case, diversity often infuses novel thought-processes into the team.

Jung’s feat debunked the stereotypical notion of law enforcement being solely about muscle and might. It unveiled how disguise, deception, and strategic planning could also wield triumphs.

And this isn't exclusive to women navigating male-centric domains.

Infusing your team with gender and racial diversity can provide the myriad perspectives crucial for effective problem-solving. Your personal experiences sculpt your worldview, influence your thought process, and, consequently, impact your approach to resolving issues.

The presence of diverse opinions arising from varied backgrounds often nudges individuals to question ingrained notions and biases.

In a 2013 experiment, about 200 self-proclaimed Democrats or Republicans from four different US universities participated in a murder mystery. Intriguingly, the participants — even though the mystery had no political undertone — devised stronger arguments when they were informed they would be presenting their solutions to individuals of the opposing political party.

This experiment further illustrates the strength of diversity: diverse teams often produce decisions that have been thoroughly scrutinized and vetted for success.

A little friction can fuel the team dynamics and enhance performance.

Ever pondered over how couples frequently locked in arguments, manage to hold their relationship together for years on end? As per the findings of the Gottman Institute, a research center dedicated to studying couples' relationships, regular disagreements don't necessarily spell doom for long-term relationships. The real red flag is when partners give each other the silent treatment.

Arguments indicate a willingness to reach a resolution, whereas silence often allows issues to fester, potentially leading to severe consequences. This truth is just as applicable in the realm of organizations — a phenomenon termed as organizational silence can invite problems in the future. The auto industry presents a compelling case in point.

Back in 1998, a merger was initiated between the Detroit-based Chrysler and German automobile behemoth Daimler, the owner of brands like Mercedes-Benz and Maybach.

Fast forward to three years later and the merged entity, DaimlerChrysler, was worth just half of its pre-merger valuation. The venture had dramatically flopped.

Rather intriguingly, instead of the union birthing an amalgamation of the best practices from the two companies, the cultural differences triggered conflict. Cognitive friction flared up between the quality-focused Daimler employees and the utility-oriented Chrysler workforce.

A lack of encouragement for dialogue between the two factions led to an atmosphere of silent segregation where each group kept to itself. This resulted in the pernicious organizational silence.

Yet, it's important not to misinterpret this. Conflict, in itself, isn't always detrimental.

Take, for instance, the Wu-Tang Clan, celebrated as one of the most influential hip-hop ensembles ever. The group, formed in the 1990s, consisted of musicians harboring diverse personalities, ages, and musical leanings.

Rather than allowing their disparities to create discord, the Wu-Tang Clan tapped into their internal differences to revolutionize the genre with avant-garde lyrics and beats.

However, there's a tipping point beyond which tension and discord no longer stimulate creativity and can devolve into harmful hostility.

This danger was not lost on the renowned pioneers of aviation, the Wright brothers. They employed an interesting tactic to avert the eruption of all-out battles. In the throes of a disagreement, they would switch sides and defend each other’s points of view. This allowed them to step back, reevaluate their innate obstinacy, and dispute the points instead of the person.

Nothing unites like a shared passion: The magic of camaraderie through play.

While the Wright brothers devised an effective strategy for resolving their disputes, scaling this method up to larger groups plagued by deeper animosities is far more challenging.

Picture Buenos Aires at the dawn of the 20th century, a city brimming with clashing communities. Convincing entire neighborhoods to mirror the perspective-swapping tactic of the Wright brothers would have been near impossible. However, a potent unifier emerged, remarkably effective in its simplicity: soccer!

As Argentina underwent a shift in its national identity, the emblematic rugged gaucho cowboy was gradually replaced by the pibe — streetwise kids passionate about soccer. The beauty of this game was its universality, transcending boundaries of race, religion, or socioeconomic status, making it particularly significant for the Jewish community in Buenos Aires who were navigating particular hardships at the time.

The popularity of soccer mushroomed, the city's streets and stadiums pulsating with the energy of the game. An impressive number of soccer teams popped up in Buenos Aires. Most importantly, as people played together, deep-seated animosities began to melt away.

Does this surprise you? Well, research supports this phenomenon. Engaging in play together encourages individuals to see fellow participants as part of their 'in-group', regardless of which team they're on. This changes their perspective, making them feel less threatened and more empathetic towards their opponents.

Our brains instinctively categorize people into 'in-groups' or 'out-groups'. Essentially, 'in-groups' comprise individuals whom you perceive as similar to you and consequently trust, while 'out-groups' are those whom you may view with suspicion.

The amygdala, a part of the brain, orchestrates this division. Upon identifying 'suspicious' people, it triggers a release of adrenaline, sending alarm bells ringing to other brain regions and the body. This adrenaline surge causes an increase in heart rate and blood pressure. Even seemingly harmless unfamiliarity, like overhearing a foreign language or witnessing unusual behavior, can trigger this response.

This adrenaline-driven response is the scientific foundation of xenophobia.

But, we aren't slaves to our body's chemistry. When individuals unite through shared activities — much like the Argentinians and their love for soccer — mutual trust grows, 'in-groups' expand, and harmony prevails. This is the enchanting power of camaraderie through play.

Reinvigorating a complacent team with fresh perspectives can stir innovation.

The business world is no stranger to the saying, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." While at first glance this maxim seems reasonable, it can lead successful teams down a path of complacency and stagnation.

When a team tastes success, there's a natural tendency to continue using the same formula. Before they know it, what was once innovative becomes a breeding ground for inertia. The case of a fictitious company, let's call it "G-Corp," serves as a perfect example.

In the 1980s, G-Corp struck gold with the invention of the blister cushion, a unique bandage that gradually released medication to a blister. However, after this initial triumph, the company hit a slump. Their subsequent ideas couldn't match up to the blister cushion, leading to a decline in sales and a failure to attract new customers.

Faced with this crisis, G-Corp was compelled to breathe new life into its once-victorious team. They enlisted the help of consultants from Sense Worldwide, who jolted them out of their rut and set them on a path forward.

The consultants initiated their strategy by conducting focus groups to help G-Corp executives grasp the needs of their customers. These groups comprised individuals from professions prone to blisters. In a highly interactive exercise, the executives used permanent markers to circle the blisters on the focus group members' feet and engaged in discussions to understand their needs better.

Inspired by these insights, G-Corp expanded their product range to include a new line of plaster-type products. They diversified their offerings, with different shapes and thicknesses of plasters catering to varying blister severities.

Another intriguing approach to revitalizing a team is the introduction of a 'devil's advocate'— someone who actively challenges the views of the others.

In a 2009 experiment, groups of three American students were tasked with solving a murder mystery. After 20 minutes, a 'devil’s advocate' joined each team as a fourth member. Astonishingly, the presence of this new member doubled the group's chances of solving the mystery.

The secret lay not in the new member having the right answers. Instead, their presence spurred the group to rethink their choice, challenging their argument through rigorous cross-examination, thus stimulating critical thinking and creativity.

Sometimes, what seem to be outlandish ideas can spark unconventional solutions.

Imagine standing in front of a simplistic piece of art—nothing more than a black square painted on a canvas. It hardly seems groundbreaking, right? This was the author's feeling as he visited the Tretyakov Gallery to see Kazimir Malevich’s Black Square one chilly March.

Painted at the dawn of the twentieth century, Black Square was a stark departure from the traditional art of its time, which typically aimed to portray reality and beauty. Even the works of Picasso, while abstract, sought to capture some semblance of reality.

However, Black Square released art from the shackles of reality. It reshaped art as a medium for enhanced visual communication and cognitive exploration. It reimagined the concept of what art could be.

Inspired by these revolutionary ideas, one of Malevich’s students, El Lissitzky, started designing propaganda posters for Russian Communists. But realizing the immense influence they wielded over the masses overwhelmed him, driving Lissitzky and several other artists to seek asylum in Germany during the 1920s.

These artists founded the renowned Bauhaus art movement, reinventing the role of art within the realms of industry and advertising.

The intriguing tale of Black Square illuminates the fact that initial judgments of an idea can often be misleading. Even if an idea like the Black Square doesn't click instantly, it could still have a long-lasting and transformational impact. Hence, one should resist the urge to dismiss an idea prematurely.

On the flip side, sometimes even a seemingly terrible idea can yield unexpected benefits. Take the instance of city planners in frosty Winooski, Vermont, back in 1979. They devised a quirky plan to curb the town's soaring heating costs by covering the entire town with a dome, funded by the federal government.

As you'd expect, this unconventional idea attracted national attention and wide-spread ridicule from all political quarters. The plan was shot down by President Jimmy Carter himself, who ordered a halt to the dome's construction.

Yet, this seemingly absurd idea ended up benefiting the town. Thanks to the media attention, Winooski managed to secure funding for a new hydroelectric plant in the vicinity. Impressively, it was the second largest per capita funding in U.S. history.

In the end, the town found an economical heating solution, all because a far-fetched idea sparked a conversation.

Shared objectives and mutual respect are key to unifying disparate teams.

It's quite a paradoxical thought, isn't it? The Communist totalitarian Soviet Union joining forces with the capitalist democracies of the West during World War II. However, with the looming threat of Hitler's armies, these unlikely allies set aside their ideological disparities and worked together towards their common goal.

The concept of shared or 'superordinate' goals has the power to unify individuals or groups, despite their differences. History provides an even more dramatic example of this phenomenon during the War of 1812.

In their bid to reclaim the newly independent USA, the British planned a naval assault via the Mississippi River. However, the port city of New Orleans stood in their path. American general Andrew Jackson was grappling with a shortage of troops and had no choice but to mobilize not just his trained cavalry, but also an eccentric mix of African American militiamen, pirates, volunteers armed with rifles and hatchets, and even prostitutes.

Although Jackson harbored a strong prejudice against his makeshift troop and the animosity was reciprocated, they collectively set their differences aside. The superordinate goal was clear—to protect their country from British invasion. In a remarkable turn of events, this motley crew of unlikely allies defeated the British in 1815, preventing a full-scale invasion.

However, these temporary alliances began to fray soon after the war. Old grudges resurfaced, symbolized by Louisiana's attempt to reclaim properties from the pirates. Despite their victory, the deep-seated differences between the groups could not be fully bridged.

Yet, dissolution of unity isn't inevitable. A lasting unity can be fostered by nurturing a culture of teamwork and mutual respect.

An intriguing experiment conducted in 1954 at a boys' summer camp underscores this point. The campers were divided into two groups—the Rattlers and the Eagles, both quickly developed an intense dislike for each other.

They were presented with a series of challenges that required cooperation, such as handling a water supply crisis and dealing with a breakdown of their camp truck during a lake expedition.

After the initial challenge, the groups quickly reverted to their hostile attitudes. However, as they faced more challenges and collaborated repeatedly, they began to build trust. This trust ignited empathy and a newfound respect for each other started to blossom.

By the last day of the camp, the old rivalries had vanished. Irrespective of their initial group affiliations, the boys dined together in the cafeteria and sang in unison during the bus ride home.

Indeed, it was one memorable summer that demonstrated the potential of fostering unity even among the most divided.

Dream team members should embrace intellectual humility.

During the 1950s and early 1960s, renowned civil rights activist Malcolm X was a figure of contention. His affiliation with the radical Nation of Islam and unfavorable encounters with white Americans during his early life led him to a contentious conclusion. He believed that integration was an unattainable goal, advocating for the separation of black and white communities.

This narrative exemplifies what countless research studies have established over time—that our opinions and beliefs are largely shaped by our past experiences.

However, Malcolm X's story also illustrates an essential route to transformation. As research indicates, stepping into an unfamiliar environment often prompts individuals to reassess their views with a sense of intellectual humility.

Immersing oneself in a different culture tends to make people more open to fresh ideas. As you step outside of your familiar surroundings and adopt a new vantage point—separated from your personal identity—you become more susceptible to significant shifts in perspective.

What catalyzed Malcolm X's departure from his separatist views was his transformative pilgrimage to Mecca in 1964 and the time he subsequently spent in Africa. These experiences fostered a new multicultural outlook within him.

Witnessing diverse cultures coexist harmoniously, with people of different ethnicities living together in peace, he realized that such unity was feasible back home in the US.

But such a paradigm shift doesn't happen in a vacuum. It necessitates a readiness to approach intellectual debates with humility, acknowledging any inherent biases or preconceptions that might influence your perspective. With this mindset, one can appreciate arguments based purely on their logical merits.

Malcolm X's life embodies this idea of intellectual humility. He demonstrated the ability to question and reassess his long-held beliefs and transform his outlook.

This principle of intellectual humility is equally important for teams, not just individuals.

While it's commonly understood that a diversity of opinions within a group enhances the likelihood of reaching an optimal solution, it doesn't necessarily guarantee that the most effective solution will be chosen.

This is where the role of intellectual humility becomes crucial. If team members are receptive to revising their opinions, it fosters a culture of rational debate. And when debates are centered around rationality, it increases the chances of selecting the most effective solution.

Stories can bridge gaps and foster empathy in teams.

Thus far, we've observed how intellectual humility, active discussions, controlled conflict, and shared goals can contribute to the formation of a dream team. But there's another powerful element that can take a team's cohesion to a whole new level—stories.

Hearing the personal narratives of colleagues can evoke empathy, enriching the team dynamic by promoting a deeper understanding between members.

Paul Zak, a researcher at Claremont University, conducted a series of experiments investigating the production of oxytocin under certain conditions. Oxytocin is significant because it's the hormone generated when we experience trust and kindness, making us more empathetic towards others.

Zak found that participants' bodies produced significantly more oxytocin when they were shown charity ads featuring heart-wrenching stories of cancer patients or animals abused at shelters. In contrast, ads presenting statistics about cancer or animal abuse had a less profound impact.

Moreover, participants were more inclined to donate money after viewing the story-driven ads compared to the data-oriented ones.

The reason behind this is straightforward—stories have a superior ability to foster connection and empathy compared to dry numbers. It's much simpler for us to empathize when we can relate to the narrative.

This effect is not confined to small groups—it can propel significant social changes on a larger scale. Personal stories have been pivotal in driving some of the most substantial social justice movements in history.

Consider the changing perspectives towards Asian Americans and the LGBTQ+ community in America over the last century.

During World War II, Asian Americans were amongst the most negatively stereotyped minorities in the country. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941 led to over 120,000 Asian Americans being detained in prison camps out of fear that they might conspire with foreign forces.

However, the advent of positive Asian American characters in film and television helped shift these perceptions. A noteworthy example is the eloquent and charming character Hikaru Sulu in Star Trek, who successfully countered racial stereotypes.

The public sentiment towards homosexuality underwent a similar transformation. In the 1950s, over half of the American population believed that homosexual activity was a criminal offense deserving incarceration.

However, as more individuals courageously came out of the closet and shared their personal narratives, societal attitudes began to evolve.

What these instances illustrate is that openness, empathy, and shared stories can catalyze significant positive changes.

Assembling and maintaining a dream team can be challenging, but it's undoubtedly worth the effort. A balanced mix of diversity, constructive provocation, intellectual humility, and compassion can empower any team to reach its highest potential.

A concluding thought

We've all had those golden moments in a team, when collaboration clicks, and we create something that exceeds the sum of our individual contributions. Yet, quite often, team dynamics can prove challenging, making solo work seem appealing. But going it alone isn't the best answer! The potential of a dream team is unleashed when its members show respect, empathy, openness to change, and willingness to embrace dissent. It is then that a team can truly deliver remarkable results.

Dream Teams Quotes by Shane Snow

Similar Books

The 5 AM Club
The 48 Laws of Power
Extreme Ownership
Who Not How
Find Your WHY
Masters of Scale
Positively Energizing Leadership
Kim Cameron