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There Are Lots Of “I”s In A Team

“Sacred Cows Make The Best Hamburger”

Do you ever get tired of hearing the old and worn out management cry: “There’s no I in team!”. In this article, I’d like to challenge that unquestioned assumption.

The left-hand figure in the graphic below depicts a man-made group with a bunch of “I”s thrown together. Since the motto is “it’s every man for himself,” the group shouldn’t really be called a team. It’s more like a heap of individual and unconnected parts. In a heap, the whole is nothing more than the sum of the parts.


The figure in the middle of the graphic represents a group of people instilled with the “there’s no I in team” mentality. In this case, the group is more than the sum of its parts and it’s a much better problem solving structure than a heap of “I”s. However, because of the across-the-board homogeneity and lack of distinction between group members, the solutions produced by a group of “we”s are bland and mediocre, like unflavored oatmeal.

The figure on the right shows the ideal team. It’s composed of people who are motivated to succeed both individually and collectively. Relative to the other two types of groups, the team of “I + We”s is a super performer and it creates innovative solutions to problems. Thus, a high performing team is comprised of lots of “I”s.

Sadly, the vast majority of corpo organizations create hideous hybrid abominations like the one in the figure below. Yuk!


By; repeatedly espousing that “there’s no I in team!” to the doers sub-group; treating all work with the same apathetic reception regardless of relative quality; and punishing individual creativity; managers create and nurture a divided mediocracy. Of course, since they are the chosen ones, managers never follow the rules that they espouse for others. Thus, they are constantly and cleverly competing with their brethren for status and entitlement, operating as “I”s. It’s a good thing that the “we”s actually produce the outputs that allow the organization to survive, even though their products are mediocre and boring as hell.

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