There is no team

I’ve come to learn there is no such thing as a “team”. Only very productive individuals. You can’t take a group of average individuals, make a team out of them, and produce above-average results. In fact work quality and efficiency decrease with team size. The most productive unit is the individual.

This is a sort of anticlimactic realization for me. Back when I worked on Standard Notes solo, I had always been mystified by how large teams operate and produce. How did companies like Apple, with team sizes of hundreds and thousands, coordinate to ship frequently and speedily on a consistent basis? From the way I see it now, my answer would be: they hire great individuals. And the rest is automatic. I had a friend who worked at Apple who had likewise been previously mystified by their magic. After he saw what the insides looked like, he said, psht, I could start a company like Apple. He was unimpressed.

There was no magic. There was just a group of individuals working under the same roof.

This also removes mystification from the hiring process: there is no surprise result when hiring and integrating an individual in a team. You will get from that individual exactly their productive power and nothing more. I daresay you also can’t coach, manage, or train someone to be more productive than they innately are or are capable of.

So, to build a great team, hire great individuals. It sounds obvious, but when you’re in the thick of it, it’s kind of not. When you’re on the ground-level not pontificating from a birds-eye view, it’s easy to think a B-player integrated into an A-team still makes for a great result. It won’t. It brings down the group average.

There is no magic. There is no team. There are only really productive individuals. A great team spontaneously forms when a group of really productive individuals collaborate. The magic is in the collective human processing power.


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