How to Operate in a Team Full of Misfits
How do you operate a team full of misfits? So you're Andrew Jackson and Jean Lafitte, you have this group of people, who are all fairly different, they have different things they're bringing to the table, that can lead to the victory. How do you operate that kind of group? How do you get them to pull together? So, Dream Teams, we've talked about what they have that other teams don't. Cognitive friction and intellectual humility. This is the things that you need. If we break those down, kind of as the recap. Cognitive friction means you have heads that think different, they don't hold back on their ideas, they're willing to clash, and they trust each other's intentions. Intellectual humility means they have curiosity for things that maybe seem outlandish, they have respect for other viewpoints, they can be open to revising their viewpoints, and they serve the group's goals over their own goals. So, the thing that we started learning with the Robber's Cave thing, is that superordinate go...
als are good, but what happened in that event, is they started to actually see themselves as part of a superordinate group. And this is really what happened, both with the British Army and with Jean Lafitte and Andrew Jackson, is it's not actually the values in common, or the goals in common that allow you to have that flexibility, we talked about being stubborn on vision and flexible on strategy. The thing that helps you to do that is seeing yourself as part of a superordinate group. So, the mother group that you belong to, that you can be distinct within, is the thing that you care about the most. So this is another diagram, kinda looks like this. Superordinate group is a group that we all belong to, and it's okay if we're a little bit different, it's okay if we have some overlaps. If I'm this little green thing here, I'm part of this group, or part of the bigger group, and the big group is the one that I care about the most. My goals are for this group; this group's second. And this is what happened with the kids when they were trying to pay for their movie, this is what happened with the pirates and the American Indians and everyone else, and the battle inside of the British Army. They had the regiment of Scots, they had these different groups, but they had one piece in there that got wrong, which was that they were unwilling to lean into their different ways of thinking. They were unable to bring something different. They had to actually smoosh all those groups into one way of doing things, and that was the problem. So this idea of optimal distinction then comes up. When you think about the Robber's Cove kids, they realized at a certain point that the rattlers could be useful, just like the eagles could be useful for the big group. Human beings, it turns out, our brains want us to be, we want to both belong and to be different. These are two sort of competing motivations that we have inside of our brains at any time. Thinking back to this survival theory, we wanna belong to the tribe, so we don't get kicked out, so we don't have to face the saber tooth tiger on our own, but we wanna be different enough that the tribe finds us useful, so that we're not also kicked out, so that we're not redundant. Our brains want to have that thing, but often we lean too far one way or too far another way. We have our identity depend too much on a group identity, then that becomes problematic, because then what we add to the group that could help the group do better, is going to be squished out of us. We lean too heavily into the independent thing, and not in the group or being different, then that can become troublesome, because then we don't have the unity we need to work on things together. If there's one person in the battle of New Orleans that's like no, I wanna be different, I wanna have a mohawk instead of fighting in the battle. It doesn't make sense at all, right? Have your mohawk and fight the battle. So, again, the question. What ties this kind of group together? Values are the wrong term, I think, when it comes to what can make a group like this pull together. We talk about goals, I think goals are the wrong term as well. We all have our different lists of goals that will change a lot. The most powerful thing that I've found that can bring a group together is purpose. And lots of stuff about purpose and how powerful this is, but the purpose of saving this city, it's a little bit different than a goal. Underlying that goal is something that you actually are viscerally attached to, you have an emotional attachment again, to this story. There's a story here that matters to you beyond just sort of the accomplishment, if that makes sense. There's a reason why to accomplish. So, one of my favorite examples of this is Google. Google, they famously have this slogan, don't be evil. And that's almost cheeky, as their way of saying do the right thing. And that's it. But if you ask any Googler what their purpose is, they'll say organizing the world's information. That purpose is the kind of thing, like we were talking about before, if you're stubborn about that purpose, that's what we're trying to accomplish and there's meaning behind it and there's a story of why that matters, then it allows you the opportunity, or the freedom, to find lots of different paths to doing that without being punished for it. So the purpose becomes this very unifying thing with a ragtag group of misfits that you need to accomplish it, can actually rally together. So, play and storytelling, what we talked about before, can also feed into this idea of what can unify a team. The story of the purpose of what you're doing. So when Andrew Jackson got up in front of the city of New Orleans, he gave a speech. And he said basically, we need to set aside our differences and pull together, because the future of this country is at stake. And he gave this speech about the history of the United States and how it was this group of people who came from everywhere. And we made this country out of all of these different pieces, all these different people from all these different places, and they all contributed something that made this place. And that's what we're gonna do today, and that's what we're fighting for, is the ability to do that. It's sort of like a crazy thing for this guy to even acknowledge, given how intolerant he was known for being, but it's the truth, and that story is very much part of what happened. And I put play up here also, because we're talking about what can bring a group together. As we talked about before, there's anxiety that we have when we're in a situation like this, when we're in a situation where we are all different, and sometimes the purpose that we're striving for, we can't see it, what gets in the way is our fear of each other, and that's where, once again, some of these things we've talked about before can help us to depressurize, so we can see the thing that matters, our superordinate goal in many cases might be to avoid the fear or to not be in a situation where we fear for our lives, we might conflate this situation of working with people that are different from us, with our own survival. We can depressurize, get that one off the table, then we can see the real purpose, the real superordinate thing that we're after. And that clears the way for that. And another thing that, when we're getting down to brass tacks, of the kinds of things that groups can do to help them feel unified despite being different. I have this here, I don't know what a touchstone looks like, but this is what came up when I searched for touchstones (laughs). What you can do, it turns out, you have a group of people who are different, you want them to have something in common, you can invent something in common. So the idea, and again, I'm making up the definition of touchstone, but rituals are basically things that you do over and over again that tie a group together. Now it's possible to have your own rituals if you're part of a distinct group, or your own rituals if you're your own person that are your own. It's also possible for a bigger group to develop their own rituals, if that makes sense. So, in America, for example, we have this country that's built off of all these immigrants from all these different places, who all have their own rituals, their own cultures, their own values, their own things. In the early days of the country, we invented the Pledge of Allegiance, as a thing that we can all say. We invented holidays, as things that we can all celebrate. That ideally, they don't step on anyone's personal rituals, but they become a touchstone that we can all say, hey, we have this in common. We do this over and over again so we feel something about this purpose, about this thing that we're trying to do. And that makes it okay, if we're doing all this stuff over here, as long as we have one kind of finger on the touchstone. This idea becomes really important when you talk about, when you learn about what happened after the battle of New Orleans. This kind of comes into play. So, the group, they all came together, they won the battle, everyone was happy and victorious, Jean Lafitte is now man about town, known at fancy parties. Afterwards, what happened, is Andrew Jackson decided he was going to sue people who pissed him off during the war. So he sues the governor of New Orleans for whatever he did that he didn't like, he did this awful thing, and you can tell I really don't like Andrew Jackson, right? (laughs) This awful thing, where there were a few soldiers, there were eight of them, I think. They wanted to go home early. The war was over, but he wanted to kind of clean stuff up. These guys wanted to go home to their families, and he said no, and they were like, but our contract's up, we wanna go, so he had them shot. Not a really good thing if you wanna continue to have a group have unity, right? I don't know how he won the election after this. He didn't pay the freedmen of color, he'd promised to pay them. And he stiffed his contractors, surprised a President would ever do that. And then, the pirates basically, even though they were now pardoned for having participated in this war, the governor of the state wouldn't give them their stuff back. So they got all upset about this, and basically what happened is the pirates and the freedmen of color sailed away together, and found an island, and made their own little pirate island, essentially, off the coast of Texas, where they declared that anyone was allowed to be there, and be whoever they wanted to be. There's kind of, I kind of want to go to that place, I have no idea how many problems they ended up having after a while, but they were so frustrated with the fact that they were brought in to help defend this country, because they believed in the country, and they were not allowed to be who they wanted to be, and they were not rewarded for their contribution. So they tried to set up this society where people could be whoever they wanted to be and be rewarded for that. So imagine living on a pirate island, what do you need in common as that touchstone? One of the things that Jean Lafitte was all about was this idea of respect for anyone being whoever they wanted to be. Which is a strange thing for a pirate, whose job is to rob boats, to say. But the way that you foster this, is not in just one grand declaration, like Jackson did, in saying let's all come together and set aside our differences, and defend our home. It's actually in all of the little things that you do. We talked about micro-opportunities and micro-regressions. You need to reinforce the purpose, reinforce the fact that you want the distinctiveness, and you want the cognitive diversity and friction, and humility and all of that. You need to reinforce that with little micro-experiences, and all the little things you do, it can't just be one time. Otherwise, the group will fall apart, and they'll sail away. So we're stretching an analogy there, but I hope you're following. So we have this little chart of our superordinate group just take group a, b, and c. The thing that makes a great superordinate group is having a shared purpose that becomes the individual's top priority in that situation. Providing micro-experiences that reinforce that shared identity and the optimal distinctiveness and that's valued, and it's not gonna be forgotten once the battle is over. And then you allow people to fully be themselves, and you have them fully engaged, and you want them to be motivated to serve the larger group, where we means everyone. When I think about this, I think about my family. I think about the best kind of team, ideally, is a family that you can all be different, you move away from home, my mom's not happy that I have tattoos, but when you come back for Thanksgiving, you love each other, you can have debates, I'm on a different side of the political spectrum as my dad, and yet, we can debate about things and still love each other, and we can make progress, and come up with third options. That's the kind of team that we want, and the nice thing about family is ideally your family doesn't say well, you're gone just because you're different. The family still loves the black sheep ideally. Not every family is like that, but when we have this quintessential picture of a great family, that's what it is. It's not the family where you have to be the same in order to belong. So you're loved no matter what.