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The Culture Code

The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups

By Daniel Coyle
13-minute read
Audio available
The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups by Daniel Coyle

Daniel Coyle’s The Culture Code (2018) digs into the findings of psychologists, organizational behavior theorists and his own firsthand knowledge of the contemporary business world to provide answers. What makes a group tick? Why do some teams outperform other seemingly evenly matched competitors? As well-researched as it is practical, this study of group dynamics is packed full of illuminating ideas and considered, hands-on advice about getting the best performance out of groups.

  • Managers and executives looking to hone their leadership skills
  • Employees of large organizations curious about the group dynamics around them
  • Members of sports teams interested in boosting their on-field performance

Daniel Coyle is an editor for Outside magazine and the author of six books. His previous work includes the coauthored William Hill Sports Book of the Year prize-winning The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France, as well as The Talent Code and The Little Book of Talent. When’s he not at his writing desk, Coyle can be found advising the Cleveland Indians, an Ohio-based baseball team.

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The Culture Code

The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups

By Daniel Coyle
  • Read in 13 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 8 key ideas
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The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups by Daniel Coyle
Synopsis

Daniel Coyle’s The Culture Code (2018) digs into the findings of psychologists, organizational behavior theorists and his own firsthand knowledge of the contemporary business world to provide answers. What makes a group tick? Why do some teams outperform other seemingly evenly matched competitors? As well-researched as it is practical, this study of group dynamics is packed full of illuminating ideas and considered, hands-on advice about getting the best performance out of groups.

Key idea 1 of 8

Weak group cultures are the result of focusing on skills and neglecting interactions.

Whether it’s a family, a circle of friends or work colleagues, we’re all members of different groups. And big or small, every group has its own distinctive culture.

So what’s a group culture?

In essence, it’s the relationships between people working together to achieve a common aim.

Not all group cultures are alike, though. Some work well, while others are dysfunctional.

You can spot a poor group culture a mile off. If you’ve ever worked in an office or lived in a house with a defective group culture, you’ll know the atmosphere is so thick and tense that you could cut it with a knife.

That’s often the result of group members focusing on the wrong thing.

Rather than paying attention to the quality of their interactions, they struggle to determine their position within the group and spend time worrying about their own status.

As soon as you start doing that, you’re no longer focused on the work at hand; everything becomes a question of whose ideas can be criticized and which rules are open for debate. That’s a recipe for disaster.

Take a study carried out by engineer Peter Skillman. He asked groups of kindergartners, business school students and lawyers to take part in a simple competition. The aim of the exercise was to build the tallest possible structure using uncooked spaghetti, tape, a yard of string and a single marshmallow.

If you were the betting type, you’d surely put your money on the students or lawyers, right? After all, they’re the ones with the most expertise, experience and general knowledge.

As it turned out, it was the kindergartners who usually won.

So how did they prevail over their older and presumably wiser competitors?

The answer lies in group dynamics. The business school students, for example, always began by analyzing the task at hand, discussing the right strategy to follow and quietly establishing a hierarchy.

The kindergartners pursued a radically different approach. Rather than trying to figure out who was responsible for what, they simply got on with the task. Hardly wasting a word, they huddled together and started experimenting. If one attempt failed, they tried something else.

They ended up winning the competition because they were focused on interaction; they were cooperating to achieve a shared goal rather than competing amongst themselves.

So how can you make your groups more like that of the kindergartners?

In the following blinks, we’ll delve deeper into the question of group culture to find out.

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