We are not fans of bloated teamwork. Studies and business history have proven it doesn't work. Creativity and productivity suffer. That's not to say we don't embrace the idea that two or three or even four heads can't be better than one.
Ensembles are our view of how to get a project off the ground — tight knit groups of 2 to 4 individuals with the inspiration and drive to break ahead of the pack.
For two of my previous books I tapped into this power. Tom Kelley and I collaborated on the Art of Innovation and Ten Faces of Innovation, books that explored many of proven methods of the celebrated design strategy firm IDEO.
Tim Brown, the CEO of IDEO, has a new book out, Change by Design. I've just started reading it, and I couldn't help noticing that Brown challenges the myth of teamwork in chapter 1. "Though it is not uncommon to see large creative teams at work, it is nearly always in the implementation phase of the project; the inspiration phase, by contrast, requires a small, focused group whose job is to establish the overall framework," he writes. "Look at the credits on your next movie rental, and check out the preproduction phase. There will invariably be a small team consisting of a director, writer, producer, and production desginer who have developed the basic concept. Only later do the "armies" arrive."
Brown has hit upon a useful insight for anyone starting a project. While it may be tempting to increase your people power early on, you may find as Brown notes, "a dramatic reduction in speed and efficiency as communications with the team begin to take up more time than the creative process itself."
Start by doing. With an Ensemble.
— Jonathan Littman