Dream Teams: Working Together Without Falling Apart

Dream Teams: Working Together Without Falling Apart

by Shane Snow

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Overview

Award-winning entrepreneur and journalist Shane Snow reveals the counterintuitive reasons why so many partnerships and groups break down--and why some break through.

The best teams are more than the sum of their parts, but why does collaboration so often fail to fulfill this promise? In Dream Teams, Snow takes us on an adventure through history, neuroscience, psychology, and business, exploring what separates groups that simply get by together from those that get better together.

You'll learn:
  *  How ragtag teams--from soccer clubs to startups to gangs of pirates--beat the odds throughout history.
  *  Why DaimlerChrysler flopped while the Wu-Tang Clan succeeded, and the surprising factor behind most failed mergers, marriages, and partnerships.
  *  What the Wright Brothers' daily arguments can teach us about group problem solving.
  *  Pioneering women in law enforcement, unlikely civil rights collaborators, and underdog armies that did the incredible together.
  *  The team players behind great social movements in history, and the science of becoming open-minded.

Provocative and entertaining, Dream Teams is a landmark work that will change the way we think about people, progress, and collaboration.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780735217799
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/05/2018
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 355,502
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Shane Snow is a science and business journalist and the co-founder of Contently, one of Inc's fastest growing companies and Crain's and Ad Age's best places to work in America. His writing has appeared in The New Yorker, Wired, The Washington Post, Fast Company, Time, and GQ. His first book, Smartcuts, has made him a highly sought-after speaker around the world on innovation and lateral thinking.

Read an Excerpt

ONE

 

Buddy Cops

and Mountaintops

 

"I think I ruined the wedding."

 

1.

 

The Chicago detectives were in Baltimore, of all places, investigating a train robbery (of all things!) when they learned about the plot to kill their hometown congressman.

 

It was February and cold outside the office bearing the name "John H. Hutchinson, Stock Broker" on South Street near Baltimore's Inner Harbor. The office was a front-a temporary headquarters for agents of Hutchinson's private detective firm. The firm specialized in fraud and corporate espionage, particularly for clients who wanted to keep things quiet.

 

Hutchinson's detectives had inhabited this secret office for several weeks now. They were there at the behest of the president of a local railroad company, a man named Samuel Felton. He'd hired them to look into a rumor about a plot to ruin him by disrupting millions of dollars of train cargo. Local politics were tense in Baltimore at the time, and Felton had feared "an extensive and organized conspiracy" that included members of the city police, or even higher up. Paranoid as he was, Felton decided to hire outsiders to suss out whether the rumors had merit, before involving authorities.

 

And when it came to that sort of thing, Hutchinson was the best. A classic entrepreneur, he was a school dropout with a knack for solving puzzles. This led him to become a police detective, then to open a private firm. After ten years in operation, Hutchinson still personally masterminded most high-profile jobs.

 

For the Baltimore Railroad case, he had also staffed his finest crew:

 

Detective Webster was the principal investigator on the case. He was a tall British immigrant, with curly hair and a beard that can be best described as "hipster."  Webster was tough and experienced and unafraid to kick down a door or jump from a moving train-as he once did while chasing a fleeing suspect. A family man with four kids, he'd earned his stripes as an NYPD officer for over a decade.

 

Webster's counterpart, Detective Warne, on the other hand, was sly, charismatic, and twenty-eight years old. Where Webster was a decisive man of action, Warne was the agency's smooth talker and master of disguise-thin and chameleonlike, with a knack for getting people to cough up information.

 

The two had been chasing down Felton's railroad conspiracy at various Baltimore PD haunts for a month when they overheard a rumor that sent them racing back to base. In the course of that month, they had determined that a group of corrupt officials and politically disenfranchised socialites indeed had it out for Felton. But as far as they could tell, the group had done little but talk trash about him and other high-profile figures in Baltimore.

 

Webster, who knew how to relate to police officers, had been buddying up with off-duty drunks at local cop bars. Meanwhile, Warne was spending evenings in disguise at elite social hangouts, eavesdropping on the conversations of potential conspirators. In this manner, the two pieced together the troubling details of what was really afoot:

 

Basically, it was terrorism. The group, frustrated at the state of national politics that they felt was leaving Baltimore behind, wanted to send a message: the government had failed. "Look at our city," one conspirator confided, "and tell me if we are not going to ruin." They'd considered several ways to draw attention to this point, like ruining Felton's railroad line. But the group had recently cooked up plans to do something much less subtle: assassinate a high-profile congressman who would soon be passing through town.

 

The congressman-a popular but polarizing Republican-was the perfect target. He represented everything these extremists hated about the current state of politics. They suspected that his death, while shocking, would spark the dialogue they desired. They'd then knock off Maryland's governor for good measure. Each would die as an example, one conspirator said, of a "traitor to God and this country."

 

The conspiracy reached high. A police captain named Ferrandini had vowed that the out-of-state congressman would "die in this city." And police chief George Kane, who was sympathetic to the extremists' cause, was willing to turn a blind eye.

 

The congressman had made public plans to travel among the citizens-by train-from Illinois to Washington, with a series of speaking events scheduled en route. After stopping at Columbus, Pittsburgh, New York, Philadelphia, and Harrisburg, he would board a train to Baltimore. There a driver would take him to the Eutaw House, where he would deliver a short speech. After the speech, the driver would take him to a train station a mile away, for a final leg to Washington, DC.

 

Although it's customary in America for local police to provide an armed escort for visiting politicians-often a showy spectacle of blocked roads and sirens-the plan was for Chief Kane to claim at the last minute that he could not spare any officers to meet the congressman's entourage at the train station. The man and his personal detail would be on their own.

 

The conspirators would post agents along the route, sending word of the congressman's progress toward Baltimore. They had choreographed a "street fight" to break out as he passed through the vestibule at the train station to meet his driver. The fight would distract the transit security. Simultaneously, a mob of faux commuters would swarm the area. Several of these would be armed men-including at least one police officer-who would proceed to gun down the congressman and his entourage.

 

When he reviewed Webster's and Warne's intel, Hutchinson spiraled into anxiety. This was much bigger than railroad sabotage indeed. They needed to alert some proper authorities. But how far up did the conspiracy go? Hutchinson dispatched Warne to alert the congressman and advise he go straight to Washington and skip the speaking tour.

 

But the congressman deliberated: Given the current climate, canceling all these speeches could be politically disastrous. And tipping off the terrorists now would make them harder to catch later. Still, evidence of the murder plot was compelling. He asked Warne: Could they discreetly get him to DC after his final event in Harrisburg-and leave authorities out of it?

 

Hutchinson reluctantly agreed, understanding that any leak could hamper an investigation into the wider conspiracy. But he was nervous. This was not corporate espionage. It was life and death. And anyone could be a conspirator.

 

Except for Mr. Felton, Hutchinson decided. He'd enlisted them to investigate these corrupt officials in the first place. He had to be clean. Now it was their turn to enlist him.

 

So, with Felton's help, the detectives devised a plan.

 

 

On the night of the planned murder, after a packed speaking event in Harrisburg, the Republican from IllinoisÕs Seventh District excused himself to his hotel room. He donned the disguise that Warne had prepared for him-a felt hat and slouchy overcoat-and exited the hotel alone through a back entrance. Hutchinson and a bodyguard met him there and accompanied him to the midnight train to Philly. Warne was waiting, having reserved a car for their Òfamily,Ó whose Òinvalid brotherÓ needed special assistance.

 

While changing trains in Philadelphia, the disguised congressman stumbled through the station, playing the part of the disabled brother marvelously. The conspirators who camped out to alert the gang ahead didn't notice as the group crossed the station and boarded the next train to Baltimore.

 

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, Hutchinson's crew were busy altering train routes. They'd secretly arranged for the earlier train to Baltimore to travel slower, and along a side track. This allowed the congressman's train to accelerate and arrive in Baltimore well ahead of schedule.

 

They arrived early, as planned. Again, no one noticed the "invalid" in the cowboy hat as he transferred with his "family"-to an early train to DC.

 

Captain Ferrandini and his assassination gang were still waiting outside the Baltimore station as the train left for Washington. The disguised congressman passed through right under their noses.

 

Detective Warne stayed awake all night as the train clattered past Fort Meade, Glendale, and Landover Hills. The congressman snoozed as his car crossed the Anacostia River and pulled into the station. Then he woke up and stepped out into the drizzly DC morning.

 

Where he, Abraham Lincoln, was inaugurated the sixteenth president of the United States.

 

2.

 

We're going to start our adventure in the science of breakthrough teamwork with cops-small partnerships that have to solve big problems. Because what makes good police work work illustrates the foundational principle upon which Dream Teams operate. This will prepare us to explore all sorts of other kinds of teams, from bands to businesses to armies to social movements.

 

The foiling of the "Baltimore Plot" to assassinate Lincoln is an excellent case study for us to begin with: We had two groups of collaborators. One was outnumbered, outgunned, and out of time. The other was large, connected, and coordinated. Beating the odds required Hutchinson, Felton, Warne, and Webster to conduct a last-minute symphony, solving a series of problems in a variety of clever ways. They wore disguises, ferreted out the enemy's plans, and orchestrated delicate logistics to save a life-and potentially a nation. And they had to do it all in secret.

 

In fact, even the name John H. Hutchinson itself was an alias. His real name is one you may have heard: Allan Pinkerton. After the Baltimore Plot, Pinkerton's National Detective Agency became one of the most famous in history.

 

Which reminds me, there's something else that I need to tell you.

 

There's something about that charismatic, disguise-loving, twenty-eight-year-old whose work was instrumental to saving Lincoln's life that's germane to our exploration of breakthrough collaboration. It's something that will help us understand the first and most fundamental component of Dream Teams.

 

It's that if you're like most people, you probably thought Detective Warne was a man.

 

But she wasn't.

 

3.

 

Let us face reality. If the credibility of the FBI is to be maintained in the eyes of the public, the lawbreaker, fugitive, deserter, et cetera, and if we are to continue a flexible, mobile, ready-for-anything force of Special Agents, we must continue to limit the position to males.

 

-J. Edgar Hoover (March 11, 1971)

 

4.

 

Kate Warne was the first female detective we know about in US history. But it took a long time for there to be many more.

 

Women weren't allowed to join police departments until thirty years after the Baltimore Plot. It wasn't until even later that police departments assigned any women to be detectives. And the FBI didn't hire a single female agent until 1972.

 

The ranks of women law enforcement agents did not swell, in America at least. At the time of this writing, only 15 percent of active duty police officers identified themselves as women, and women made up just 20 percent of FBI agents. This is despite what retired FBI agent and University of Northern Florida professor Ellen Glasser points out: "Half of criminal justice students in college are women."

 

The common explanation for why is a simple one, as another former FBI agent put it to me: Generally speaking, women do not have the same strength as men.

 

For better or worse, this is a biology thing, not an equality thing. The Centers for Disease Control's most recent data found that 89 percent of adult men are stronger than 89 percent of adult women. The Journal of Applied Physiology reports that men have an average of 40 percent more upper-body strength than women. And if two random strangers of the opposite sex decide to have a leg-kicking contest on the street, there's only a tiny chance that the woman will win.

 

The following chart shows the grip strength, a common proxy for overall strength, of men versus women by age:

 

Genetics says that women are not going to be as good at chasing bad guys, punching bad guys, or intimidating bad guys with their size. That's one of the reasons that FBI director J. Edgar Hoover didn't let women become agents at all. "The Special Agent in his appearance, approach, and conduct must create the impression to his adversary that among other qualities he is intrepid, forceful, aggressive, dominant, and resolute," Hoover wrote. The other reason for excluding females was unity. Hoover's army of agents needed to march to the same beat to be an effective team. "We must put up the best front possible," he explained.

 

And you know what? That's okay. It turns out that some jobs, like law enforcement, are just better suited for men. Kate Warne was nothing but a rare anomaly of a female on a law enforcement Dream Team. She is by far the exception to the rule.

 

Except, it turns out that Hoover was wrong, and all that stuff in those last two paragraphs is garbage.

 

The story of FBI special agent Chris Jung and a Newark mafia boss shows us why.

 

5.

 

The morning sun reflected off the garbage floating in the bend of the Passaic River that formed the city limits of Newark, New Jersey. Horns blared and street hustlers hustled as bell-bottomed commuters poured into the cluster of office buildings on the river's western shore. Inside one of those buildings, agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation were planning a raid.

 

Well, sort of. They were planning something. They weren't sure what.

 

Newark in the 1970s was run by syndicates of a handful of Italian American crime families. The Lucchese family was known for controlling the newspaper delivery and kosher meat unions. The Genovese family was famous for its founder, "Lucky" Luciano. And then of course there was the DeCavalcante crime family, whose de facto boss is said to be the basis for the character Tony in HBO's The Sopranos. They controlled the city's gambling parlors, its piers, its garbage collection, and its murder.

 

Mafia bosses are hard to get into a courtroom. But in the spring of '74, the FBI had dug up some dirt involving one of the big bosses. (The FBI agents I interviewed were willing to tell me this story but not the name of which mob boss it was. So we'll just call him Mr. Lombardi.)

 

The dirt was dirty enough to subpoena Lombardi, or force him to appear in court to testify.

 

But there was a problem. The law required that subpoenas be delivered in person, by hand. Once you received the subpoena, you're required by law to appear in court, or you could be arrested. And if you were a mob boss who appeared in court, you were suddenly in a lot of danger. Of saying something you shouldn't-or worse, of another mobster getting worried that you were going to.

 

The mob had figured out by this time that one of the best ways to stay out of prison or the Passaic was to avoid being summoned to court in the first place. If a subpoena never got delivered, it couldn't be enforced. So they'd developed a simple, but effective strategy: surround the boss with enough layers of bodyguards that no cop could ever talk to him in person. Thus, the Newark crime heads of the 1970s were able to move about town in style and yet remain untouchable.

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