May 26, 2009
Water is good for you. Unless you’re at the bottom of the ocean with an anchor tied to your ankle. Teamwork is like that. It can be a good thing, but more often it’s like trying to breathe underwater. Consider a brief list of reasons that teamwork will make any normal individual perform below his highest potential:
1. Your best time for thinking might be the other guy’s best time to take a nap. If that’s the only time you can have a meeting, one of you isn’t going to be operating at peak performance.
2. Credit for success is distributed across the team. So is blame. If you believe people are motivated by a desire for credit, or a desire to avoid blame, teamwork is a blunting force.
3. In any group of three people, there’s generally at least one disruptive moron.
4. People have different work styles. Some people like to do everything just right. Others like the quick and dirty approach, fixing things as they go. In a team, you spend half of your time arguing over the best philosophy for every action.
5. To mediocre minds, a brilliant idea and a dumb idea sound identical. A team will vote out the best ideas along with the worst.
6. The dominant team members will get their way over the objections of the meek, no matter how competent the meek might be.
7. In a team, you must continually explain yourself, defending every thought and every action.
8. Everyone has a different risk profile. Your appetite for risk won’t be shared by the group.
9. Everyone wants to do the fun stuff and not the boring-but-necessary parts.
10. You eat when the team agrees that it’s time for lunch. That means you’re often hungry while trying to work, or wasting time eating when you’re not hungry.
11. All meetings last longer than they should.
One of the implications of more people working for themselves, and working from home, is that people will be somewhat freed from the tyranny of teamwork. I wonder if that bodes well for the future of humanity.