Outside the Echo Chamber

What can we gain by having conversations with strangers?

Photo by Jonathan Hanna on Unsplash

All of us are exposed to the same selection of opinions for the majority of the time. A combination of conscious decisions, and whatever cognitive biases are dominant at any given time, provide us with a slice of information that we use to construct our beliefs.

In an attempt to expose myself to some different ideas (and in preparation to my talk on teams for Digital Leaders Public Sector Insight Week next month), I went on Quora and asked the question:

What’s the best team you’ve ever been a part of, and what made them good?

It’s safe to say that the answers I received were outside of my normal echo chamber.

Someone who worked in a US team transitioning medical patients from large facilities to smaller, community based housing said:

“The entire group was dedicated to the goal of working themselves out of their jobs. That is what made them good.”

Purpose is something we often consider, but the notion of selflessness as the cornerstone of an effective team is one I haven’t yet considered. A former staff sergeant in the US Air Force talked about a deployment in Turkey in the 1960s talked about the advantage that tech gave them when gathering information, but further clarified:

“All my operators were smart and good techs. We did good work and were appreciated by our Commander.”

Smart and good would imply good recruitment and training to me, ‘good work’ a focus on quality, and appreciation a signifier of empathetic leadership. Another answer concerned a basketball team built around a star player:

“We were a very good team without him, but with him we were unbeatable. He was sick the day of the championship game. However, we full court pressed the whole game and crushed the opposition.”

We often talk about good teams not being based around heroes, but it seems here that this team found a way of accommodating exceptional talent without sabotaging its own culture. And it looks like this is an example of adaptability being crucial in that.

A really interesting experiment, and a set of opinions I wouldn’t normally be exposed to.

These notes are taken from my weekly newsletter The Week In Pieces -thoughts and links on ways of working, personal and team coaching, balancing work with life and more. Subscribers get a set of curated links and resources straight into their inbox every week — you can take a look and subscribe here.




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Piers Campbell

Piers Campbell

Building and coaching connected, high capability teams, and then writing about it.

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