Learn how to create a unified team. Focus on big goals and big meaning. Create rituals. Celebrate unique sub groups—and values beyond ones core to team (including speaking up, curiosity, respect, and humility).
- If it's indeed true that we need our differences in order to make more progress together than we could on our own, then there's a question that comes up, which is what do we need to have in common if we wanna work together, if we wanna be a dream team? And a lot of times we default to these sort of obstacle courses and trust falls, and things to help us to feel like we can trust each other. The best thing that can unify a group of people is a shared sense of purpose. It's not a shared way of doing things, or even a shared belief in certain values.
It's a purpose, something you're all striving for. So if you're making a cake, and you have all the right ingredients, and you've mixed them together, you're still not gonna get cake if you don't put it in the oven and allow it to change state. The reality is for a dream team to operate, you don't just need different people, you don't just need to engage in the intellectual conflict, the cognitive friction, you also need to be able to change your mind. That's part of what intellectual humility is about, is changing your state, changing your viewpoint even when it's hard. That's how we get cake, that's how we get dream teams.
There are two competing psychological instincts that we have as human beings. The first is to belong to a group. We wanna be included, we wanna be safe, we don't wanna get kicked out and have to survive on our own. The other is we wanna be needed, we wanna be valuable, we wanna be different. So there's this thing that you wanna find in a group called optimal distinction, which is allowing people to be different in the optimal sort of way, but also feel included and like they belong. And there's a couple of things that you can do to sort of reinforce both those things, that yes you're part of the team, and yes you're also needed, and unique and different.
The first is that purpose, is you can be whoever you wanna be if you also care about this same thing. The other thing that can unite a group of people who are distinct but wanna be together is ritual. Rituals that you can all have in common no matter who you are, are very powerful. We do this in our nations, in our families, holidays, different celebrations, different traditions that we have that we create for the group, not bringing someone's personal rituals and having them compete with each other, but something that ties the whole group together, that's very powerful.
It allows you to have something where you're connected, a touchstone, so to speak, but you also are able to be optimally distinct and bring that other thing. So often we have to ask ourselves are the people who are here actually the people who need to be here? 'Cause the most powerful thing is for them to wanna be here because they believe in that purpose. But there are some things that we can do as leaders and as individuals to actually develop more of a trust in each other and more of an openness, really, to each other's different ideas so that we don't take things personally when things get hard or when there is intellectual conflict.
Research shows that intellectual humility can be built by traveling and by living in other countries, and experiencing cultures that are not like your own, because when you learn viscerally that there's more than one right way to live, your brain starts to realize that there might be more than one right way to think about a given situation. This transfers to other kinds of things other than just culture and things like food or whatever you experience in a different cultural context. But you don't need the means or the privilege to travel in order to have this effect happen.
Research also shows that if you read lots of fiction, or if you watch fictional television, you explore other places through fiction. You can actually learn people's stories, you can go places without actually having to physically travel. This helps you to become a little more intellectually humble as well, 'cause stories in fiction are just stories of people who aren't like you. As you start to build up that muscle of appreciation for these stories, you also have the muscle built that can allow you to engage in debates with people with different points of view that aren't like your own and feel more safe having that debate, without feeling threatened in your own personal ego.