Much of the secret spice of creating great products has to do with creating great teams.

The sources that I find the most useful in this space do not come from the business world however, they come from psychology.

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One book in particular, not a new book, but one that I have on my shelf that is terribly dog-eared from having opened, re-read, and reminded anew is a book titled “Nurture Shock” by Po Bronson & Ashley Merryman. How I came to this book:  There’s a book called “Drive”, and an associated video by Daniel Pink called “the surprising truth about what motivates us”, and Nurture Shock came to my attention after reading Daniel Pink’s review, namely “Nurture Shock is one of the most important books you will read this year”, adding the “prodigious research and keen analysis” done by the authors.

So I picked it up in 2010, and have been often going back to it when I see team dysfunction and want to test my assumptions.

To give you a flavor of the book, and to test out some your assumptions too, here are some questions based on information from the book:
• Those who are praised for their efforts perform better than those who are praised on their intelligence. True or false?
• Having high self-esteem improves grades and/or career achievement. True or false?
• A normal kid’s IQ can change up to 28 points before the age of 18. True or false?
• The performance gap caused by having one less hour of sleep is bigger than the gap between a normal fourth-grader and a normal sixth grader. True or false?
• Students who are praised for their efforts perform better than students who are praised on their intelligence. True or false?
• Can self control be taught? True or false?
• Does a school’s diversity program prepare one to work in a diverse job setting? True or false?
• Kids who lie earlier do better on tests of academic prowess. True or false?

This might not seem to have anything to do with product development upon first glance, but just last week I re-read three of the chapters, and here’s why:

A team in the Baltics is working (not very successfully) with a team in Bangalore, India. After initial interviews we found that no effort was spent on discussing cultural differences. It was assumed that because we work in a diverse company and had diversity training in schools that we should know cultural differences.

An engineer unable to attend stand-up meetings had a real need: his schedule (which unfortunately is not owned by him) is such that he’s not getting enough sleep, to the detriment of his health.  Sleep is when your brain recovers, if teams don’t get enough sleep your product will suffer.

Two, presumed gifted and talented, high IQ members of a team, were ostracized (in fact, kicked off the team) by the other team members, saying they were unable to work with them.  Another question for you: do you hire for the skill that the person has, or for his or her character? (Which is harder to influence, a person’s character or a person’s skill?)

So long story short, this is one book I will not lend, it’s earned a well-worn spot on my bookshelf!