Tales of the Great Groups

Organizing Genius: The Secrets of Creative Collaboration, by Warren Bennis and Patricia Ward Biederman, published by Addison Wesley

What differentiates a bunch of people working together from a “Great Group”?  Why do some groups of extra-ordinarily talented individuals produce greatness while others wallow in mediocrity?

A “Great Group” results “from a mutually respectful marriage between an able leader and an assemblage of extraordinary people.”  Groups go on to greatness only when each among them is “free to do his or her absolute best.”  In his Introduction, Bennis portends that this book is “about organizing gifted people” in ways that allow them both “to achieve great things and to experience the joy and personal transformation that such accomplishment brings.  Yet, once completing the tome, it would appear that Bennis’ comment is teleological.  Characterizing groups such as Disney’s Animation Studio, the Manhattan Project, the Skunk Works at Lockheed, and the team that created the Apple Macintosh computer, as great is something no one would contest.  However, in order to give further credence to Bennis’ argument, a contrasting study would have to be conducted to look at groups with similar demographics which did not become similarly “great.”

Organizing Genius is more Bennis’ attempt (and a reasonably successful one) to identify a new trend in leadership, that of the greatest and most innovative breakthroughs originating from highly creative and productive teams rather than one great leader.

The story of each Great Group is compelling and fascinating.  The lessons that one can take from even a sampling of these experiences is extremely valuable.  And that is Organizing Genius at its best.  It takes us inside the psyche of the minds of the leaders and chief members of these groups and teaches us the value in creating environments which foster creativity.

Bennis derives 15 “lessons” of the Great Groups, a few of which are especially compelling.  These are

·    Every Great Group has a strong leader
·    Great Groups and great leaders create each other
·    The leaders of Great Groups love talent and know where to find it
·    Great Groups think they are on a mission from God
·    People in Great Groups have no distractions
·    Great Groups are optimistic, not realistic
·    Great Groups always deliver a product
·    Great work is its own reward

In sum, before starting your next project, read the tales of these Great Groups and you’ll find that just reading this work will imbue some of the greatness in your work.

You can order Organizing Genius right now from Amazon.com.

Jonathan B. Spira is the CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.  This article originally appeared in the Basex Online Journal of Industry and Commerce (BOJIC).

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