Shane Snow is an award-winning journalist, celebrated entrepreneur and the best-selling author of the books “Smartcuts: The Breakthrough Power of Lateral Thinking” and “DREAM TEAMS: Working Together Without Falling Apart,” as well as the co-author of “The Storytelling Edge.” He is founder-at-large of the content technology company Contently, and is a board member of The Hatch Institute, a nonprofit for investigative journalism in the public interest.

OFFICIAL KEYNOTE SPEAKER OF SYMPOSIUM
Dream Teams and the Science of Breakthrough Collaboration
TUE | APRIL 2
8:15 A.M.

WHAT MAKES A DREAM TEAM? HOW IS IT DIFFERENT FROM AN ORDINARY TEAM?

I call it a dream team when a group’s members add up to more than the sum of their parts. It’s a team where everyone gets better together, instead of just a group getting bigger.

WHAT QUESTIONS SHOULD LEADERS BE ASKING WHEN TRYING TO CREATE A DREAM TEAM?

Leaders need to stop asking “Who will fit this team?” and start asking “Who will add to this team?” The starting point for dream teams is different ways of thinking.

TENSIONS CAN OCCUR IN GROUPS THAT INTERRUPT THE FLOW AND SYNERGY OF WORK AND MAY ULTIMATELY DAMAGE THE TEAM’S DYNAMICS. HOW CAN A LEADER REBUILD A BROKEN TEAM?

Often it starts with assessing who is on the team, where there are redundancies in perspective, where there could be diversity of it, and where do you have a lack of intellectual humility. Too often we resist changing who’s on our team for reasons that don’t have to do with optimizing our team’s chance of success (e.g., keeping people out of loyalty or for political reasons). The other thing I’d say is that just because there is tension doesn’t mean there’s a problem. Tension is a key ingredient of a dream team. You need to have different ideas and ways of thinking do battle if you want to find smarter ways of doing things than you’ve already got. What leaders need to do is harness that tension and divert it away from the personal and toward tension between ideas. Debates lose their effectiveness once they get personal, but a good debate about ideas can be far more effective than a happy brainstorm session.

WHAT PART DOES COMPANY CULTURE PLAY IN A DREAM TEAM?

The more a culture allows for people to think and operate the way they want to, the more that culture will allow for dream team dynamics. In my definition, the difference between a cult and a culture is in a cult you’re not allowed to do or think any way but the “official” way, whereas a culture welcomes additional perspectives.

PLAY AND STORYTELLING ARE METHODS YOU TALK ABOUT IN YOUR BOOK THAT MAY RESOLVE CONFLICT. WHAT ARE SOME OTHER METHODS YOU SWEAR BY?

Play and sharing our personal stories are about taking the pressure out of a relationship, so we can work more effectively even though we’re different. Besides those, I think every team player should work on developing intellectual humility, which you can do by learning about your own ego and emotional personality, by traveling and experiencing different cultures, and by reading more. Check out shanesnow.com/articles/intellectual-humility for more on how to do that!

WHAT DOES LEADERSHIP MEAN TO YOU? CAN YOU DEFINE LEADERSHIP IN YOUR OWN WORDS?

To me, leadership is helping a group to be better than its strongest or smartest member. That’s different than the historical idea of a leader, which has been to be the strongest or smartest. But this is how leadership needs to change if we want to solve the challenges of tomorrow.

WHAT IS THE BIGGEST MISTAKE NON-DREAM TEAMS MAKE?

They conflate getting along and having similar interests with being a better team. In reality, the best teams push boundaries by combining their differences. And that often means they’re full of people with different personalities and interests. Which is great!

YOU SPEAK ABOUT HOW LEVERAGING COGNITIVE DIVERSITY CAN HELP AN ORGANIZATION OUTMATCH ITS COMPETITORS. HOW CAN A LEADER TAP INTO THAT COGNITIVE DIVERSITY AMONG THEIR TEAM?

That’s what the whole book “Dream Teams” is about. 🙂 But it starts with recognizing the proxies that indicate cognitive diversity is there: the different experiences that people have been through in their life’s journey. Learning about this is often more important than that checklist of “right answers” in a job interview that everyone prepares for.

HOW CAN LEADERS ENHANCE A TEAM’S CREATIVITY WITHOUT ADDING/HIRING MORE MEMBERS?

Learn to host productive debates, encourage dissent and invite outside perspectives that shake things up. Pushing your team into an ideal zone of cognitive friction, then learning how to pull things back when they get too tense or personal — that’s the skillset of great creative leaders.

Register today at www.clomedia.com/symposium