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Book Review: The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups In The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups, Dan Coyle, author of The Talent Code, digs into the secrets of the most highly effective teams, including the U.S. Navy’s Seal Team Six, the San Antonio Spurs, and IDEO. He boils their success down to three secrets: having a purpose, building safety, and learning to be vulnerable. His examples are vivid and captivating. Check out these noteworthy tips:

  • It takes a lot of work to build a strong sense of belonging, which is required if you want to create a safe environment. It takes almost no effort to destroy that sense of belonging, because people are hard-wired to need frequent cues of belonging. Among other factors, look for strong eye contact between everyone on the team, high energy, and an overall equality in how much people speak during meetings (i.e., one person doing much more talking is a bad sign). (p. 10 – 14)
  • Build a culture of high group intelligence through experiences where people individually respond to others enthusiastically. Recognize that you won’t build group intelligence through what you say; that is, through pronouncements, emailed communications, lectures or announcements. You build it by doing things together, by playing with ideas and solving problems.
  • Don’t fall for the misconception that highly effective teams are all about happiness and high spirits. They are driven to solve hard problems.
  • MIT professor, Thomas Allen, studied group chemistry during the Cold War in an effort to uncover the mysteries of highly effective teams and found that it wasn’t quite as mysterious as he thought. The simple act of placing desks so that people can see each other improved effectiveness more than IQ and experience. Dubbed the Allen Curve, communication rises exponentially when people are separated by under 8 meters. Increase the distance to 50 meters and communications cease. (p. 68 – 72) It is interesting to wonder what technology has done to Allen’s observations.
  • Be willing to admit that you are fallible or afraid. Admit mistakes. Ask for feedback and embrace it.
  • There is a fundamental difference between leading creative teams and leading proficient teams. Creative teams need inspiration and a license to fail. While more operationally oriented teams, going about the business of keeping things running (for example, restaurants) need very clear guidance and standardized procedures. (p. 222)

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