Shane Snow explains how to form a dream team. Learn how to recruit for culture, not fit, and build diversity on many levels. Your team should share superpowers. Find out how to "cast" the team.
- You can't make cake out of eight different types of flour, no matter how great, how high quality the flour is. Reality is, if you wanna make cake, you need different ingredients. This is sort of a crude analogy for the truth, which is that in teamwork, you can't make a team that's smart, that's smarter than the smartest person, without different mental toolkits. You need different people to combine their ideas, their perspectives, their heuristics, if you wanna get better, if you wanna solve problems, you wanna make breakthroughs and be innovative. So the question is, what are the right kinds of people that you need when you're forming a team if you wanna be one of those quote dream teams? In the 1970s, psychologists did research in business settings where they wanted to know what made people happiest at work, and they concluded that we're happiest at work when we work with people who have similar personalities or think exactly the same as us.
And so for years and years, for decades, we've conflated that idea of working with people like you and being happy with being successful at work. Turns out that those are two different things, that if you work with people who are like you and you're happy, you aren't necessarily being pushed to think differently or to grow or to move further. That growth requires a little bit of discomfort, a little bit of pain, whether we're talking about the gym or mentally. And so this is why it's important to rethink the notion that we've had for years in business of culture fit.
Culture fit is about looking at a person and saying, I think that they fit in, that they remind me of me, they look like the people around here, so they'll do well. They'll be happy. What we want instead actually is culture add. You want people who are gonna contribute something different so you don't just have a group of people who are all going to tend to think the same. This is like the ingredients of that cake. You don't want the same things if you already have them. So when you look at people who you're adding to your team and you're trying to hire, you need to ask the question, do we already have this set of perspectives, this kind of background, these kinds of things that they're bringing, is that already represented here, and if it is, then can we find someone who can add something new? I think about the time when I was hiring and I always ask people their backstory.
I was trying to get at where they've lived, things they've done in their lives, different career paths. And I remember interviewing two people for a product position, and one of them had gone through sort of a traditional product path like a lot of our product people, and then another guy was a piano tuner who went from piano tuning to getting into product design and product management. And I remember thinking that someone who's tuned pianos has a different set of skills, different set of heuristics, and maybe some perspectives that can add something to the culture potentially. Those are the kinds of things you wanna look for.
It isn't always on the surface. It often has to do with someone's story. But when you think in terms of culture add, it starts to change the way that you think of teamwork and it helps you to avoid sort of the biases that creep in. When we say culture fit, a lot of times that turns into a euphemism for like us, and that can be dangerous, and it can lead people to feel like they actually need to fit a certain way of being or acting or thinking if they wanna not get kicked out of the group, which is the last thing you want if you wanna create a dynamic where people can make each other better.
Research shows that groups of people with diverse mental toolkits outperform groups of the best and brightest, which is pretty exciting and also important as a leader to recognize, that it's not just about stacking up the people with the best resumes or the highest scores. It's about getting the group of people that can bring the most out of each other. And once again, diverse mental toolkits are what matters, and those are formed by the experiences we've lived through, who we are, and where we've been. So it's important to recognize as a leader that those are really important factors when you're putting people together, when you're picking teams.
The more potential you have for different ways of thinking, the more potential you have to solve problems and make breakthroughs.