Teamwork & Creativity

One of the great disappointments of my post-MBA working life was being told that I would only be evaluated on projects where I was the sole "owner" of process and content.  In other words, if I had contributed to an initiative run by another person, well, that contribution would count for zip, zilch, nada. 

This flew in the face of everything I’ve ever learned about getting great stuff done.  And it baffled me.  I’d rather work with a group of people to do something really cool (and run the risk of losing the trail of authorship) than structure my approach to a problem in order to satisfy the needs of a backward performance evaluation process.

What’s that saying — "two heads are better than one"?  The architect Renzo Piano said it best:

Teamwork is when you throw out an idea, and it comes back at you, like a game of Ping-Pong — four can play it, or six, or eight, with the balls moving back and forth at such a speed that they are flying in both directions at once.  Everything gets mixed up.  When the project finally takes shape, you can no longer tell who put what into it.

In any endeavor which requires creative output, evaluating people as if they were social islands, capable of existing without interactions with other people, is not only silly, it fundamentally misses the opportunity to align incentives around the ultimate performance goal — doing remarkable things.