It’s not about stars. It’s about teams

To function without an organization means you don’t have to conform to many norms. To work within an organization requires skills, training and the ability to get along with others who are different. People working in groups need to embrace a common set of customs. If you can’t achieve a goal on your own, you need to spread the work among team members, and they have to know what you want, when you want it and how you want it done.

Given our differences, it’s amazing that we get anything done at all. But the good news is we do, and we do it really well. We’re so good at working together that when we don’t do it, people question our motives.

Individually, human beings have a few I.Q. points on chimps and crows, but if you connect people and give them a language with which to share ideas, those I.Q. points multiply quickly. Put enough specialists in a room and wire them together, and it doesn’t take long before they are plotting trajectories and sending their colleagues into space.

The key to doing wonderful things is getting people to form robust organizations. That means individuals need to learn new skills and abandon bad habits. Diversity and inclusion are powerful aids to getting that done. Fortunately, humans are genetically predisposed to working together toward goals set by others. If that weren’t the case, there would be no companies, no militaries, no politics. But it’s a trade-off. To gain the power of the group means giving up certain individual things.

Think about it as a paradox. Many motorcyclists see themselves as individualistic, even iconoclastic. They think of themselves as modern day “cowboys.” But they ride the same motorcycles, which they customize in the same way. They have their motorcycle’s (iconic) brand tattooed on their arms. These “iconoclasts” get the same haircuts and wear the same boots. They ride along the highway wearing the same patches on the backs of the very same jackets—these “iconoclasts” have replaced society’s “respectable” icons with icons of their own.

Human beings are successful not because of what we can do alone—which is not much—but because of what we can do together. We embrace political parties, religions and organizations whose belief systems might even be irrational, delusional or scientifically incorrect, and yet we stay in those organizations. We do it through thick and thin. To join an organization and make that organization work, we pursue the same goals.

It makes a lot of sense to operate this way. When individuals join an organization, they become similar.  They give up some of their best individual moves for the sake of the team. To be inclusive means adding skills and ideas from all participants to make the whole team better. Great teams, no matter the endeavor, require discipline. You can’t have a team where everyone is a star, even if they were stars before they joined the team. Inclusiveness really is about “all for one, one for all,” no matter how diverse the players.

Authors

  • Joel Kurtzman

    Former Editor-in-Chief, Korn Ferry Institute