Don’t Build A Product, Build A Team

Conceptualizing a new idea is one thing. Hell, we all get struck with new “genius-like” ideas from time to time, such as:

“I wish there was something that made just a single cup of coffee rather than a whole pot.”

The answer: Keurig

“I hate losing my car keys. I wish there was something that would help me find them.”

The answer: Key finders

The point is, having an idea is one thing, but taking that idea, productizing it, and growing it is another — something that nobody does by themselves, but through teams.

Time spent by managers and employees in collaborative activities has ballooned by 50 percent or more. — HBR

The Product Will Come, But Not Without People

When you first start off a new venture, there’s excitement, there’s buzz, there’s potential and limitless possibilities that your mind is just dying to create and bring to reality.

And then Murphy strikes.

That damn naysayer always likes to find ways to have his say:

Whatever can go wrong, will.

And that’s when you see your team’s true colors shine.

You see their hiccups. Their warts. Their hidden beliefs and values. You see what’s really important to people when faced with a world of suck.

“Circumstances do not make the man, they reveal him. “
James Allen

It’s not the product you’re creating or the awesome services you’re about to bless the world with or even who’s with you for the ride that keeps the team producing. It’s how they work.

How Your Team Works Is More Important Than Who’s On It

This was something that Google revealed when they set out to understand what makes teams effective. Of course, if they had done just a little bit of research they would’ve found these results to have been published in 2002 by Richard Hackman of Harvard University. Just sayin’.

Anyway, here’s what they found (in case you missed it):

  1. Psychological safety. Do members of the team feel safe when they contribute, speak up, or take any form of risk? Will they speak up without feeling judged?
  2. Dependability. Do people count on each other to not only do high quality work but do it on time?
  3. Clarity. Are team goals, roles, responsibilities and expectations clear?
  4. Purpose & Meaning. Is the work we’re doing worthwhile? Does it provide something important for each member to value and does it serve a higher purpose when we achieve it (whatever it may be)?
  5. Impact. Will what we’re working on have positive impacts? Does what we’re doing actually matter in the long run?

It doesn’t matter how awesome your idea is and it doesn’t matter how skilled each individual member is. Learn to work together so your startup avoids becoming a shutdown.

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Jeff is an author, speaker, leadership team coach, host of the weekly chaos cast podcast, and former Navy SEAL. Visit his home online at

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