Biology vs chemistry


Unless you’ve been living alone in a cave (which is actually possible, given ubiquitous internet access and the fact that some of you like grunge metal), it’s safe to say you’ve been a member of a team at some point.

If so, have you ever been part of a team of bright, talented folks who are ineffective working together? It's a condition I affectionately refer to as the “Smart-Members-Dumb-Team” disorder. If your team has well-qualified participants, but little gets done and objectives aren't met, you're probably afflicted with SMDT. In small organizations this disorder can be quickly recognized and treated, but in larger companies SMDT can go undetected for months.

In some cases (especially in high-tech environments) the afflicted teams are populated by exceptionally brilliant individuals—who often know it and have little patience for others deemed less brilliant.

But whether we're talking raw intelligence or other inherited abilities, a team can have good biology (genetic gifts) but lousy chemistry (an ability to work together to exploit collective abilities). The whole turns out to be less than the sum of its parts.


Creative destruction, according to The Beatles

On September 16, 1963 The Beatles released “She Loves You” in the US. Though it didn’t become a hit until four months later (along with “I Want to Hold Your Hand”), we could legitimately celebrate this week as the semicentennial of the rock revolt!

Sure, rock & roll first caught fire in the mid-50s, but the flame was quickly doused when Elvis, Chuck, Buddy, Jerry Lee, and Little Richard departed the scene a few years later. Rock 2.0, however, would change the face of music forever.

I recently read that 75% of the population is not old enough to have witnessed this period. That probably means that most don’t appreciate the creative destruction that The Beatles wreaked at the time—beginning with their disfigurement of the Hit Parade!

When the public at large first heard the music of The Beatles in December 1963, the #1 record on the Billboard Hot 100 was “Dominique” by the Singing Nun (sung in French about St. Dominic!). Other #1's of that year included rip-roaring scorchers by Nino Tempo and April Stevens, Bobby Vinton, Kyu Sakamoto, Little Peggy March, and Steve Lawrence. Not! These performers were pleasant-sounding balladeers—and lovely folks, no doubt—but they didn’t rock, swing, or shake your money-maker.


Lake Street Dive

Yikes, another great DIY band. These guys are scary-good: a jazz-schooled pop-rock-soul quartet, featuring a sultry lead vocalist and three world-class musicians on drums, stand-up bass, and guitar/trumpet. They’re relatively unknown, but not for long. Let me introduce to you: Lake Street Dive. (They probably don't want to be called by their initials, but that’s just a guess.)

They hail from different parts of the US, but because they formed at the prestigious New England Conservatory they're often labeled “Boston-based." They actually reside in Brooklyn (when they're not endlessly touring in their van), but we Bostonians—if I may speak for all of us—would be more than happy to claim this band as our own.

One of so many things I love about this band is that they are flat-out unique. I was initially struck by how bare their musical accompaniment is, but this minimalist instrumentation leaves copious bandwidth for Rachael Price’s vocals, and she certainly doesn’t disappoint. Watch the band—Mike Calabrese, Bridget Kearney, Mike "McDuck" Olson, and Price—perform one of their tunes live.


Are you disengaged from work?

© poosan -
© poosan -

I just came across a post I did seven years ago this week (on the blog) on the subject of employee engagement—which the Gallup organization measures in extensive surveys on a regular basis.

The results over the last seven years have remained gloomily consistent. THEN: 31% of US employees were "actively engaged," 52% were "not engaged," and 17% were "actively disengaged." NOW: 30% actively engaged, 52% not engaged, and 18% actively disengaged (which means “roaming the halls spreading discontent”!).

I don’t need to tell you these numbers have economic consequences, but I will. The cost of having so many disengaged US workers is now estimated at $550 billion annually. (And that’s the organizational cost, not the personal cost. A majority of these actively disengaged employees believe their disenchantment is taking a toll on their physical health.)

Meanwhile a recent Gallup survey of German workers is more alarming: 24% of workers are actively disengaged—and feel worse than if they were unemployed! According to the Gallup report: “Actively disengaged employees are less likely than unemployed workers to say they experienced enjoyment, smiled or laughed a lot, were treated with respect, learned something interesting, or experienced happiness the day before the survey.” And this is happening in Deutschland—the high performance engine of the European economy!

Why, you ask, is there such a lack of employee engagement in business?