Tuesday, April 19, 2011


These are the fifteen top take-home lessons of Great Groups from the book "Organizing Genius" by Warren Bennis and Patricia Biederman:

1. Greatness starts with superb people.
Recruiting the most talented people possible is the first task of anyone who hopes to create a Great Group. The people who can achieve something truly unprecedented have more than enormous talent and intelligence. They have original minds. They see things differently.

2. Great Groups and great leaders create each other.
The heads of Great Groups have to act decisively, but never arbitrarily. They have to make decisions without limiting the perceived autonomy of the other participants. Devising and maintaining an atmosphere in which others can put a dent in the universe is the leader’s creative act.

3. Every Great Group has a strong leader.
Great Groups are made up of people with rare gifts working together as equals. yet, in virtually every one there is one person who acts as maestro, organizing the genius of the others.

4. The leaders of Great Groups love talent and know where to find it.
Great Groups are headed by people confident enough to recruit people better than themselves. They revel in the talent of others.

5. Great Groups are full of talented people who can work together.
Certain tasks can only be performed collaboratively, and it is madness to recruit people, however gifted, who are incapable of working side by side toward a common goal.

6. Great Groups think they are on a mission from God.
People in Great Groups often have the zeal of converts, people who have come only recently to see some great truth and follow it wherever it leads.

7. Every Great Group is an island — but an island with a bridge to the mainland.
Great Groups become their own words. They also tend to be physically removed from the world around them.

8. Great Groups see themselves as winning underdogs.
Much of the gleeful energy of Great Groups seems to stem from this view of themselves as upstarts who will snatch the prize from the fumbling hands of a bigger but less wily competitor.

9. Great Groups always have an enemy.
When there is not enemy, you have to make one up. Whether the enemy occurs in nature or is manufactured, it serves the same purpose. It raises the stakes of the competition, it helps your group rally and define itself, and it also frees up to be spurred by that time-honored motivator — self-righteous hatred.

10. People in Great Groups have blinders on.
The project is all they see. In Great Groups, you don’t find people who are distracted by peripheral concerns, including such perfectly laudable ones as professional advancement and the quality of their private lives.

11. Great Groups are optimistic, not realistic.
People in Great Groups believe they can do things no one has every done before. Great things are accomplished by talented people who believe they will accomplish them.

12. In Great Groups the right person has the right job.
The failure to find the right niche for people — or to let them find their own perfect niches — is a major reason that so many workplaces are mediocre, even toxic, in spite of the presence of talent.

13. The leaders of Great Groups give them what they need and free them from the rest.
Great Groups are never places where memos are the primary form of communication. They aren’t places where anything is filed in triplicate. Time that can go into thinking and making is never wasted on activities, such as writing reports, that serve only some bureaucratic or corporate function outside the group.

14. Great Group ship.
Successful collaborations are dreams with deadlines. By definition, Great Groups continue to struggle until the project is brought to a successful conclusion.

15. Great work is its own reward.
Great Groups are engaged in solving hard, meaningful problems. Paradoxically, that process is difficult but exhilarating as well. The payoff is not money, or even glory. The reward is the creative process itself.