Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Don’t Form a Partnership, Join a Team or Commence Collaboration Until You Read These Six Truths

“The man who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready.”

Thoreau. Walden. 1854.

Does that statement still hold true today?

Absolutely. Especially for entrepreneurs and creative professionals.

MY THEORY: That’s the problem with collaboration. Or teams. Or partnerships. Or committees.

The more people you have, the longer it takes to move.

Not that you should be opposed to working with others.

Sometimes teams help.
Sometimes they hinder.

Sometimes two heads are better than one.
Sometimes two heads are deader than one.

Sometimes together everyone achieves more.
Sometimes together everyone annoys each other beyond belief and nothing gets executed.

LESSON LEARNED: Don’t allow your dreams to be realized at a significantly slower pace because you’re too busy looking over your shoulder.

That’s how once-great ideas fizzle.

All I can say is: Wait!

Before you form a partnership, join a team or commence collaboration, consider these six truths:

1. Conditioning murders efficiency. Since day one of preschool, we’ve been indoctrinated to believe that teamwork is the secret. That working together is the answer. As the motivational poster says “Together Everybody Achieves More.”

Not always. In truth, the efficacy of teams is largely a myth. But we’ve been romanced and seduced into believing that teams are so wonderful, when in fact their power works in reverse.

In the June 2009 issue of Inc., James Freedman said it best: “In many cases, individuals do much better on their own. Our bias toward groups is counterproductive.” Are you ready to wake up from the dangerous dreams you’ve been fed?

2. The best way to block a punch is to not be there. Inasmuch as teams, partnerships and collaborations net positive results, imagine the amount of baggage you wouldn’t have to deal with if you did it yourself:

No meetings. No arguing. No awkward silences. No power plays. No excuses. No asking permission. No begging for forgiveness. No memos. No putting out fires. No managing people. No task requests. No waiting for people. No socializing. No compromising. No office politics.

After deleting all of that noise, what are you left with? Work. That matters. That’s it. Think about it: If that were YOUR work environment, you’d be pretty productive too. Remember: Productivity isn’t about what you do – it’s about what you avoid. What punches would you be blocking by going it alone?

.3. Teams are overrated. In Richard Hackman’s book, Leading Teams, he explains that people tend to think that teams are the democratic and efficient way to get things done. “When you have a team, the possibility exists that it will generate magic, producing something extraordinary and a collective creation of previously unimagined quality or beauty,” he says.

“But don’t count on it. Teams underperform, despite all the extra resources they have. Problems with coordination and motivation typically chip away at the benefits of collaboration. And even when you have a strong and cohesive team, it’s often in competition with other teams, and that dynamic can also get in the way of real progress.”

Hackman helps us realize that with teams, you often have two strikes against you right from the start. And that sometimes, having a team is often worse than having no team at all. Is your romantic notion of the value of teams shooting you in the foot?

4. He travels fastest who travels alone. Kipling made that statement in 1888. Over a century later, it still holds true. Imagine:

When you work alone, you always reach a consensus.
When you work alone, you know when you’re not producing.
When you work alone, you take more personal responsibility.
When you work alone, you can’t sit idly by as you contribute nothing.
When you work alone, you spend time (actually) thinking and not listening to others’ irrelevant, inconsequential and counterproductive thoughts.

I wonder how much faster you would move if you moved alone. Who is holding you back from being best, highest version of yourself?

5. More people equal less progress. In a 2009 issue of Machine Design, editorialist Leland E. Teschler explained, “Development teams are often an obstacle to creativity rather than a vehicle for truly elegant solutions. Many team members work at cross-purposes. That's why throwing more people at a project frequently slows it down rather than speeds its completion.”

I agree. Productivity, schmoductivity. As I learned in the hysterical book, I Hate People, even studies from a century ago prove that individual productivity declines as teams expand. It’s an inverse relationship, and it’s devastating to your performance. What is blocking your creativity?

6. Teams degrade decision quality. In his classic 1972 work, Victims of Groupthink, Yale psychology researcher Irving Janis wrote that groups often breed a false confidence that leads to unsound decisions none of the individuals in the group would have made on their own.

As I’ve experienced in my work as a one-man show: When you work alone, you’re forced to believe something because you truly believe – not because the group says it’s so.

When you work alone, you have no choice but to decide with conviction and confidence, as opposed to following the herd. How many poor decisions have you made because you delegated your confidence to the group?

REMEMBER: More often than not, teams, partnerships and collaborations are overrated.

If the man who works alone can start today – and if the world is accelerating faster than ever before in history – it seems to make more sense (and more CENTS) to go it alone.

LET ME ASK YA THIS…
Do you really need a team?

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* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Coach, Entrepreneur
scott@hellomynameisscott.com

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