This book tackles the elusive topic of culture and specifically, seeks to identify and unpack 'the secrets of highly successful groups'.
Without positioning it as a formal definition, the author nonetheless describes culture as 'a set of living relationships working toward a shared goal'. He also makes the distinction that culture is 'not something you are. It is something you do'. The inference then, is that if some groups can 'do' culture already, perhaps others can be shown how to 'do' it too.
There are really two or three questions are the heart of this book that seeks to understand group culture in particular: What is it that results in some groups and not others creating a level of performance that goes far beyond the sum of their parts? Is there a method they are using knowingly or otherwise, and if there is, how does it work?
Unsurprisingly, the basic premise of the book is that yes, there is a method and it is built on three specific skills that the leaders of those groups need to possess or develop: the capability to build safety, share vulnerability and establish purpose.
The author then explains and explores each of these skills in turn, before turning to a diverse set of real-life groups as exemplars for their practical application. These groups are taken from a host of different contexts: sport, the military, film studios, even jewel thieves, and all have created cultures that foster high and sustained levels of group performance in their respective fields.
Added to these living, breathing examples is an explanation of relevant brain functioning, and how this contributes to our understanding of why the three core skills are both so important and so effective in eliciting extraordinary performance from groups.
At the end of each chapter regarding the three core skills, consistent with the practical nature of this book, are 'ideas for action' that we can take away and begin to apply immediately.
There are also some great nuggets throughout the examples in the book, as well as some interesting insights into the power of stories to determine outcomes and into the true role of leaders.
A quick and worthwhile read for anyone interested in group culture and performance.