Thinking Teams - Unlocking the Power of Talented Minds Working Together
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Five Ways Good Engineering Leads to Bad Mangement
The Thinking Organization
Being Rational About Irrationality
Taking Chances
A Theater of Symbols

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Organizational Design
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Thinking Teams Blog

Organizational Design

The Thinking Organization



This pyramid summarizes the Thinking Teams view of a successful organization, effectively moving toward its goals, powered by collaborating teams of wholehearted individuals. The pyramid builds from foundational elements; its layers show focus areas for organizational improvement and growth. 


          Starting from the base: 

  1. Self-Aware, Productive Individuals– a wonderful alignment happens when an organization enables its members to participate in a way that connects with their full selves, not just the conscious tip of the mind's iceberg (

Being Rational About Irrationality

People thinking together can achieve remarkable results. 2012 saw the discovery of the Higgs boson using the 17-mile-long Large Hadron Collider; the successful lowering of  the NASA Curiosity Lander to the surface of Mars by its sky crane (verified 14 minutes later when its radio signals finally reached earth); and Apple reaching a market capitalization of $375B, placing it first among technology companies. Human rationality made all these things possible. 

Of course, humans aren't always rational.

Taking Chances


 “Part of the $10M I spent on gambling, part on booze, and part on women. The rest I spent foolishly.” – attributed to George Raft 


Maybe George was onto something, at least the gambling part. Taking a chance on an uncertain outcome is often considered foolhardy or even immoral, yet chance-taking is at the core of life. Everything about our biology is built to capitalize on chance events, from the connection-rich carbon atoms we’re made of, to the way our DNA lets the occasional mutation squeak by, to the way sexual reproduction rolls the genetic dice.

A Theater of Symbols

In 1997 Scott Adams, creator of the cartoon Dilbert, put on a disguise and played management consultant at the real company, Logitech. With the cooperation of a company official who was in on the joke, Adams spent over an hour leading a group of senior managers to create a new mission statement, full of relatively content-free phrases such as “emerging, mission-inclusive markets”, “explore new paradigms”, and “filter and communicate and evangelize the findings”. 

Like most jokes, this one is funny because it is both absurd and true-to-life, just like the Dilbert comics.

Clean Politics?

For a long time I thought business politics was a dirty word. I guess I wasn't alone – this is from Wikipedia: “…. organizational politics are by definition: The pursuit of individual agendas and self-interest without regard to their effect on the organization’s efforts to achieve its goals…. See also Coworker backstabbing, Cronyism, Gaming the system, Nepotism, One-upmanship, Psychological manipulation, Workplace bullying …”. What a doctrine of dirty deeds! 

But the thing that really bugged me was people crying “politics” as a cop-out.

Happy Cogs

The notion of an organization as a “factory” can make people frown. You know the story – dull, repetitive tasks; exploited workers; de-humanized cogs in a machine. This is what organizations get when they forget they are made up of people. But just the same, all organizations share a factory-like need to guide and coordinate human talents.

During my first years studying engineering in college, I worked in a factory that made trucks. I noticed a parallel: both factories and electrical circuits need a design that works in spite of variable and somewhat unpredictable components.
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