July 3, 2013
Illustration by Beau Bergeron / IDEO
We don’t have many rules at IDEO, but we do have some cultural values that we take seriously because we feel they make our teams more effective. We prototyped these values for a couple decades before we set them in print. One of them is to Make Others Successful. This might not seem like an obvious value for a group of creative types. After all, we often think of creativity as a competitive sport. The person who racks up the most ideas most often is the most valuable player. Unfortunately, not all MVPs are team players.
At IDEO, we’ve found that people who are obsessed with their own ideas aren’t very good at collaborating with others. And if you’re trying to solve complex problems—which we’re often asked to do—you need multiple minds working together to arrive at the best solutions.
Helping others to be successful benefits you, too. Even the most brilliant person occasionally gets “stuck.” In a culture that values the lone genius, where politics and rivalries rule, no one is motivated to help that person get “unstuck.” Projects stall and good ideas languish. In an ecosystem where helping others is the norm, however, everyone benefits. When you need it, help is only an email away.
During job interviews, l listen for a couple things. When people repeatedly say “I,” not “we,” when recounting their accomplishments, I get suspicious. But if they’re generous with giving credit and talk about how someone else was instrumental in their progress, I know that they give help as well as receive it. It’s also a good sign if they’ve spent time teaching. Nothing proves one’s commitment to making others successful like taking a group of students under your wing. To me, teachers are the real MVPs.
(Posted also on my LinkedIn Thought Leader blog)