Recently I have been exploring what makes great teams and I came across a compelling concept – social capital. This notion, gleaned from the book Beyond Measures, posits that it’s not merely individual abilities or unique skills that set exceptional teams apart. Indeed, the metaphor of a brick wall illustrates this perfectly. While the bricks, each symbolizing a distinct skill or talent, are undoubtedly important, they alone can’t build a resilient structure.

The strength of a brick wall lies significantly in the mortar – the binding element that transforms a disordered pile of bricks into a durable, unified structure. Herein lies the essential insight: the mortar represents the social capital within a team. It’s this interconnectedness – the strong interpersonal bonds, shared values, mutual trust, and the spirit of collaboration – that truly galvanizes a group of individuals into a high-performing, unified team.

Countless studies validate this idea, showing that teams bound by robust social capital often outperform groups composed of high-IQ individuals. In other words, it’s the power of unity, rather than individual intelligence, that makes teams more impactful, efficient, and resilient. The flip side is also true a weak mortar and the team will crumble and fall into chaos. The wall will fall not because of the individuals but the weak social capital that connects them together.

Reflecting on these insights, I see the profound role social capital has played in my own team-building experiences. In one of my earliest teams, the collective power far outweighed the individual strengths. Each member brought unique competencies to the table, and while we all had strong agility backgrounds, none claimed the title of ‘the ultimate expert’. We recognized the importance of collective problem-solving and innovation to achieve our shared goals.

Diverse viewpoints, animated discussions, and even disagreements were a part of our journey, but rather than creating discord, they reinforced our collective bond – the ‘mortar’ in our ‘brick wall’. This potent social capital transformed us into a formidable force, driving us towards significant achievements. Thus, as you form your own teams, remember: true strength emerges not merely from individual talents, but more importantly, from the robust bonds that interlink them. Embrace your team’s social capital; it’s the glue that solidifies a group of talented individuals into a collective powerhouse of success.

So, as you struggle with your team, and wonder why it’s not working. Pause and think about how strong the mortar is between your team members. If they form a well-bonded team, you’ll be amazed by the innovative solutions they can generate both collaboratively and individually. If you’re always the glue maybe it’s time to invest in expanding the social capital.

Now take a look at how to build social capital in part two of my exploration of this topic.