Thursday, April 7, 2016

The importance of ketchup when building a team

I recently was listening to one of my favorite podcasts “Reply All.”  listen here:

They were interviewing Scott Page (TIME: 22:29), a professor of complex systems at the University of Michigan and an external faculty member at the Santa Fe Institute.  And his connection between the lowly condiment and building a team struck me!

"SCOTT: Now turns out if you’re British or if you’re African American from the South, not as a rule but generally speaking, you’re likely to keep your ketchup in the cupboard. If you’re not British and you’re not African American from the South, you tend to keep your ketchup in the fridge. And you could think “Vive le difference, who cares, right?” Well it actually does matter because suppose you run out of ketchup. If you’re out of ketchup and you’re a ketchup in the fridge person, what are you gonna use? Well you might use mayonnaise, you might use mustard because those are things you think of when what’s next to the ketchup. If, alternatively, you’re a ketchup in the cupboard person and you run out ketchup, what’s next to the ketchup in the cupboard? Well, malt vinegar.

GOLDMAN: So, the more diverse the backgrounds, the more associations you get, and the more paths towards solving a hard problem.

And there are actually a lot of real-life examples of this. Carl Zimmer, a science writer for the New York Times, he says that the ketchup story completely tracks with what he sees in the science world

CARL ZIMMER: You know if a scientist is looking at a problem and thinking about how am I going to solve it, there’s a range of approaches that they may think of just based on their training. You know, and they can’t even imagine that there’s another way of approaching it. You know, they can’t imagine that there’s ketchup in the pantry, really. And the fact is that another scientist can walk in and be like,“Oh, look, you’re looking at this totally the wrong way.”
That’s it!  The importance of building a great team is being able to understand where you keep the ketchup.

In all the profiling tools I’ve used, Strengthsfinder, Gallup, Myers-Briggs, Kolbe index, etc.  All of these tell me about who I am and how I work.  The importance of building a team is taking time to ask these kinds of questions, uncover the way we think and work and then build the best, most diverse, team possible.

So, the next time you’re building a team, pass the ketchup!

Do you want more innovation at your school, business or team? Focus on diversity!