Spark #

1 + 1 = 3

A series of small, humble exchanges—Anybody have any ideas? Tell me what you want and I’ll help you—can unlock a group’s ability to perform.

Spark #
1 + 1 = 3
What We're Talking About

The principle we're discussing

The success of a group or team isn’t based on the valiant efforts of one person, but rather the group’s ability to combine their skills. Success occurs when individuals work together, filling each others’ weaknesses and relying on each others’ strengths. 

Here’s a real-world example: In 1989, a United Airlines flight had to complete a crash landing. Rather than try to manage the catastrophic failure by himself, the captain leaned on his co-pilot and a skilled passenger for help. They communicated through a combination of open-ended questions (seeking help vs. asserting direction) and short bursts of information (called “notifications” by pilots). 

With the right kind of communication, the pilot succeeded. The flight crash landed in an Iowa cornfield, and 185 people survived what was likely to be a fatal tragedy.

Why it Matters

Why this principle is important and matters to you

Highly cohesive groups are more resilient. They can manage ambiguity and discomfort through shared vulnerability and skills. They also communicate honestly, which is critical for developing trust between team members. 

This approach isn’t only effective in a crisis. Pixar is famous for its BrainTrust meetings where teams deliberately create discomfort through open-ended brainstorming. Rapid-fire communication + open-ended prompts = more creative ideas.

How You Can Use It

This provides practical ways to apply learnings from this Spark

Cohesive thinking emerges from safety, vulnerability, and open-ended thinking. Here are some ideas for creating these spaces in your team:

  • Use ice breakers to create risk-free opportunities for sharing. Team bonding exercises may get a bad rap, but they’re effective at creating shared experiences that lead to trust. 
  • When asking others to be vulnerable, start with yourself. Be candid about your uncertainties, challenges, and where you need help.

Leave room for discussion. Create a list together of broad, open-ended questions, then time-box yourselves to discuss the problem and encourage more short-form, spontaneous ideation.


An opportunity to reflect on yourself and/or your team and how you can apply these insights

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