29 Jan 2015

Teams of all talents

By Paul

Most successful BGV startups have founders with a range of different skills within the team, but it turns out just having diversity isn’t enough. This article in the New York Times highlights MIT research about what makes a successful team:

First, their members contributed more equally to the team’s discussions, rather than letting one or two people dominate the group.

Second, their members scored higher on a test called Reading the Mind in the Eyes, which measures how well people can read complex emotional states from images of faces with only the eyes visible.

Finally, teams with more women outperformed teams with more men. Indeed, it appeared that it was not “diversity” (having equal numbers of men and women) that mattered for a team’s intelligence, but simply having more women. This last effect, however, was partly explained by the fact that women, on average, were better at “mindreading” than men.

It’s all interesting stuff and I’ll come back to points two and three in later posts but the first one is something we particularly look for in teams.

This article about ‘Why I’m not a maker‘ has created a bit of a debate over the last week because it highlights a horrible habit in the tech industry towards idolising a few skill sets over others. I think this comes from a psychological bias towards thinking that one thing will solve problems but that’s rarely true. The doers are vital, the thinkers are vital, the makers, the promoters, the connectors. Without any of these things a startup will fail. But a great team comes not just from a diversity of opinions and skill sets, but from valuing them equally and giving them all a chance to contribute.

This post originally appeared on Paul’s blog on 26.01.15.