The downside of teamwork

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in Leaders & Managers,Team Building

According to Robert Lutz, the 75-year-old vice chairman of General Motors, teamwork is overrated. He argues that teams can take wildly bold ideas and strip them of their originality.

He should know. As president of Chrysler Corp., he developed successful cars such as the Dodge Viper. Earlier in his career as vice president of Ford Motor Co., he helped create the Ford Explorer.

"Teams prefer the safe, the familiar, the middle of the road, the well-researched," he writes in his 1998 book, Guts. He scorns managers who believe the best way to brainstorm "is to stick a group of employees in a room, give them sodas, and let 'consensus' be their only guide."

Instead, Lutz champions individuals who believe in seemingly outlandish ideas. He urges managers to give these outside-the-box thinkers the freedom to experiment on their own, rather than subject their work to the scrutiny of a team.

By asking a group to vet a bold idea, you risk losing what makes it special in the first place, Lutz says. The team may figure it's more realistic to tamp down a visionary's imaginings. What's worse, team members who are jealous of the creative mind behind the idea may seek to undermine that person and nix the project.

Lutz admits that teamwork has its place in bringing people together to achieve a common goal. But because it can crush creativity and risk-taking, leave room for individuals to tinker and develop their own tools or processes to improve your business operation.

When assessing an employee's ingenious idea, set a series of incremental steps to evaluate its potential impact on your organization. Put the creator in charge of implementing these trial runs--and oversee the results. Follow Lutz's advice and don't assign a team to review the idea. Your attempt to foster teamwork may wind up killing workplace creativity.

 

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