A couple of years after starting my most recent company, I had a scary realization. I noticed that by the time the business had grown to a hundred employees, my day-to-day role had gone from “guy who decides and builds things” to “guy who manages other people who decide and build things”—and I had no idea how to do that.
As a reporter who’d found himself wearing an ill-fitting entrepreneur’s costume, over the years I’d used journalism as an excuse to learn what I needed to do to be a better business builder. So when I realized that my new job was to enable teamwork, I started studying the stories of groundbreaking teams in history, interviewing leaders of great teams today, and reading reams of academic studies on human collaboration.
And I found that a lot of the common wisdom we have about working together is wrong. For decades, we’ve conflated old studies about being comfortable at work with being innovative at work. (They’re not correlated!) We’ve decided that leaders should be one thing, when the leaders of the most incredible teams in history are quite another. We’ve carved best practices around culture, values, unity, and diversity into stone tablets without thinking hard about whether those practices actually belong in the stone age.