Organizing Genius – Warren Bennis
Groups become great only when everyone in them, leaders and members alike, is free to do his or
her absolute best.
1.- The end of the great man
None of us is as smart as all of us.
In our society leadership is too often seen as an inherently individual phenomenon, but throughtout
history, groups of people, often without a conscious design, have successfully blended individual
and collective effort to create something new and wonderful. And in a global society, in which
timely information is the most important commodity, collaboration is not simply desirable, it is
inevitable. In all but the rarest cases, one is too small a number to produce greatness.
So we have to recognize a new paradigm: not great leaders alone, but great leaders who exist in a
fertile relationship with a Great Group.
“The miller analogist test”
In collaborative meritocracy, people who are talented enogh and committed enough are rightly seen
as indispensable. << You do not merely want to be considered jut the best of the best, you want to
be considered the only ones who do what you do >>. Such people need to be freed to do what only
they can do.
One of the reasons so many members of GG are young is that, given a choice, more mature and
confident talent opts for more autonomy choosing to work collectively onñy when the project is
Who succeeds in forming and leading a GG? He is almost always a pragmatic dreamer. They are
people who get things done, but they are people with immortal longings. They are people with an
original vision. A dream is at the heart of every GG. It is always a dream of greatness, not simply an
ambition to succeed. The dream is the engine that drives the group, the vision that inspires the team
to work. Also is a kind of contract, a mutual understanding that the product, and even the process
itself, will be worth the effort to create it. The goal is attainable.
The atmosphere more conducive to creativity is one in which individual have a sense of autonomy
and yet are focused on the collective goal.
Leaders also encourage creativity when they take the sting out of failure. In creative groups, failure
is regarded as a learning experience, not a pretext for punishment. Creativity inevitably involves
taking risks, and in GG, it is understood that the risk taker will sometimes stumble.
The zeal with which people in GG work is directly related to how effectively the leader articulates
the vision that unites them. The leader find ways to say or do whatever it takes to galvanize the
GG always see themselves as winning underdogs, wily Davids toppling the bloated Goliaths of
tradition and convention, so for the group the bigger the enemy, the better.
All leaders of GG find ways to imbue the effort with meaning.
In almost all creative collaborations roles and relationships change according to the dictates of the
project. GG require a flexible leadership that has more to do with facilitating than with asserting
Many leaders of GG spend a lot of time making sure that the right information gets to the right
The best thing a leader can do for a GG is allow its members to discover their own greatness.
Creative collaborators become members of their own tribe, with their own language, in-jokes, dress
2.- Troupe Disney
Success is often rooted in optimism that may or may not be warranted by the facts. GG are
undeterred by obstacles and setbacks. Instead, they are buoyed by positive illusions that they can
break new ground or succeed where others have failed. The leaders of such groups are purveyors of
hopes, not necessarily voices of reason. The leader is often the one who believes most passionately.
The ability to plan for what has not yet happened for a future that has only been imagined, is one of
the hallmarks of leadership.
The talented people who make up GG are not easily led. Often, the leader's role is simply to keep
them pointed in the right direction. One of his most important jobs is to tell people “This doesn't
work”. And his biggest administrative challenge is “resource allocation”, by which he means
putting the right people in the right jobs.
But not every talented people can work collaboratively, and some can do so only when their
contributions are properly acknowledged, and some talented people are just disruptive, awareness of
such differences is critically important in creating GG.
Groups work best when organizational goals and personal ones intersect.
Why do greatly talented people choose to remain part of a groups expects heroic achievement on
their part, then works hard at keeping their names out of the paper?
Because they feel that they are part of something truly important, something insanely great,
because they are on mission from God.
3.- A computer with a rebel heart
Strategy for letting creativity flourish was to get really great people together and manage the social
dynamic. The resulting model emphasized four things: recruitment, structure, communications and
tools. It hads a flat, nonpyramidal structure with all forty-plus scientists reporting directly to the
leader, you are as good as what you were doing, the scientists could move from one project to
another, which meant, the best projects attracted the best people and as a result, quality work
flourished, less interesting work tended to wither. The leader had to let his people do what only they
could do, and then trust in natural selection to allow the very best ideas to emerge from the process.
Sharing information is essential to a GG in weekly meetings, at which computer scientists gathered
to share their current research and submit it to the scrutiny of their peers.
The only rule was;
There is just one weekly meeting you had to go to, and you had to stay until
There are 2 ways of being creative. One can sing and dance. Or one can create an enviroment in
which singers and dancers flourish.
Secrecy has long been a passion of GG. Whether national security requires it or not, secrecy serves
to distinguish those who know from those who don't binding the insiders that much closer together.
Decency in the workplace, especially one that depends for its success on the talent and devotion of
its employees, isn't just the right thing to do. It's the smart thing to do. The talent is your treasure.
You don't chew it up.
4.- Selling a place called hope
There is a kind of leader who realizes you can only accomplish extraordinary things by involving
excellent people who can do things that you cannot.
Ad-hoc organizations such as his need rituals and moments that become part of a common history.
Intragroup rituals build cohesiveness, offer a welcome respite from long hours and high pressure,
and imbue the enterprise with meaning. The leader also can establish a tradition of recognizing the
employee of the week and the winner got a barbecue sauce bottle.
Groups that change the world have an original vision, one that is as likely to be rooted in dreams as
in experience. They see the world afresh, not necessarily the way others believe it to be.
Much of the energy of GG seems to be generated by going up against a larger-than-life-enemy.
GG coalesce around a genuine challenge, a problem perceived as worthy of a gifted persons best
efforts. Much of the joy typical of GG seems to reflect the profound pleasure humans take in
solving difficult problems.
GG tend to be less bureaucratic than ordinary ones. Terribly talented people often have little
tolerance for less talented middle managers. GG ten to be structured, not according to title, but
according to role. The person who is best able to do some essential task does it, but GG are rarely
true democracies, they almost always have strong leaders.
The kind of people who engage in creative collaboration want to do the next thing, not repeat the
5.- The skunk works
Members of GG tend to function with a sense of noblesse oblige, with the mind-set that much is
expected of those who have received extraordinary gifts. This may be one reason that there is less
conflict within GG than within ordinary ones.
Much of the communication within GG is nonverbal. Members understand the shared vision so
profoundly that they often don't need language to communicate. But while members of GG may
able to work together on some roblem without saying much of anything, such groups typically
develop a language of their own. Like the private language of twins, this groupspeak allows them to
exclude the uninitiated and to declare their collective identify.
Protected by their leaders from the distracting exigencies of real life and high on the feel-good brain
chemicals of discovery, members and reluctant to commit to an imperfect solution, however
wonderful it may be. One of the leader's critical tasks is to let the members hear the siren song of
perfection without abandoning the goal of delivery. Like politics, successful collaboration is the
science of the possible.
Some talented people are obviously able to work for individuals whose integrity is compromised,
even people who are evil. But mos talented people have little incentive to defer to an individual
without a strong moral core. Genius, even simple excellence, multiplies personal options.
The leader has to encourage their people to work imaginatively, to improvise and try
unconventional approaches to problem solving, and the got out of their way. GG are places where
you have the opportunity to see just how good you are. The project is challenging enough to test
your limits. The others in the group are stimulating and worthy of respect. It also an opportunity to
6.- Experiment at black mountain
Most GG are project driven and that the intensity that characterizes them can tear them apart in the
absence of something solid and external to the members to unify and ground them.
GG need tangible projects. They can coalesce tributes but that exists outside the minds of the
members something that can only be achieved collectively.
GG tend to be nonhierarchical. Members make contributions based on talent, not on role.
Leaders of GG function as catalysts, and they also often mediate between the outside world and the
inside worlds of the group.
8.- Take-Home lessons
15 ways to maximum the likehood on GG.
1. Greatness starts with superb people; You can't pile together enough good people to make a
great one. Recruiting the most talented people possible is the first task of anyone who hopes
to create a GG. The people who can achieve something truly unprecedented have more than
enormous talent and intelligence, they have original minds, they want to do the next thing,
not the last one. They can no more stop looking for new relationship and new, better ways of
doing things than they can stop breathing.
2. GG and great leaders create each other.; the leader of a GG has to invent a leadership style
that suits it. The heads of GG have to act decisively, but never arbitrarily. They have to
make decisions without limitng the perceived autonomy of the other participants. Devising
and maintaining an atmosphere in which others can put a dent in the universe is the leader's
3. Every GG has a strong leader; GG are made up of people with rare gifts working together
as equals. Yet, in virtually every one there is one person who acts as maestro, organizing the
genius of the others. They are almost never bureaucratic. Leaders of GG rather they are
curators, whose job is not to make, but to chose. The ability to recognize excellence in
others and their work may be the defining talent of leaders of GG. They have a profound
understanding of the work and can create the environment needed to realize it. GG don't
require their leaders to be saints. But they do expect them to be absolutely trustworthy where
the project is concerned.
4. The leaders of GG love talent and know where to find it; GG are headed by people confident
enough to recruit people better than themselves. They revel in the talent of others. The
quality of a group often reflects the network of its leader. The broader and more diverse the
network, the greater the potential for a GG. The richer the mix of people, the more likely
that new connections will be made, new ideas will emerge. For members of such groups, the
real competition is with themselves, an ongoing test of just how good they are and how
completely they can use their gifts.
5. GG are full of talented people who can work together; People who are engaged in
grounbreaking collaborations have high regard for people who challenged and test their
ideas. In such a group, ordinary affability may be no virtue.
6. GG think they are on a mission from God; People know going in that they will be expected
to make sacrifices, but they also know they are doing something monumental, something
worthy of their best selves.
7. Every GG is an island—but an island with a bridge to the mainland; There is often an
erotice element to working together so closely and intensely. In the charged atmosphere of
these groups, people sometimes look across a crowded lab or cubicle and see more than a
8. GG se themselves as winning underdogs.
9. GG always have an enemy; Competition with an outsider seems to boost creativity. Winlose competition within the group reduces it.
10. People in GG have blinders on; the project is all they see.
11. GG are optimistic, not realistic; People in GG believe they can do things no one has ever
done before. Depressed people tend to be more realistic than optimistic ones. And the
optimists, even when their good theer is unwarranted, accomplish more. Great things are
accomplished by talented people who believe they will accomplish them. GG don't lose
hope hope in the face of complexity. The difficulty of the task adds to their joy.
12. In GG the right person has the right job; Effective leaders allow great people to do the work
they were born to do. When the person and the task are properly matched, the work can
proceed with passion. GG allow participants to find their workplace bliss. Talented people
working because it hurts is a formula for organization disaster.
13. The leaders of GG give them what they need and free them from the rest; All groups share
information effectively. One thing GG do need is protection. GG do things that haven't been
done before. Because GG break new ground, they are more susceptible that others to being
misunderstood, resented, even feared. One vital function of the leaders of GG is to keep the
stress in check. Genuine camaraderie, based on shooting the moon together, is the ideal
climate of a GG. It is understood that the talent has to be unleashed to find its own unique
solutions to problems it alone can see.
14. GG ship; GG don't just talk about things, they make things. The thing, the task, is what
beings the group together and keeps it grounded and focused
15. Great work is its own regard; the reward is the creative process itself.