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When I was in the military I had a great teacher, a captain that more or less had spent his career of then twentyseven years with instruction and training. He loved the hands-on art of teaching young adults and had no plan what so ever to retire earlier than if asked to.

In the first leaderhip class he asked us:

“Please stand up and introduce yourself with your first name, last name, and tell us which your favorite dessert is. Nothing more.”

Now that does not sound like the Artillery Combat School, does it? (Except for the dessert part that really fits the artillery, a few infantry soldiers may object)

What the captain was demonstrating is that we make up our image and idea of other individuals from the instant we meet at the first time and on-going for a fairly short period of time. The less we know about a new group member’s background, the more important will it be what the person actually does and performs in front of our eyes.

But if we get to know the background of a new group member such as education, previous jobs, which schools were attended, or the location of residence, we build up pre-assumptions about the individual’s person, level of expertise, and performance without actually knowing anything.

The group will have a shorter path to becoming a fully functional unit when the group members get to know each others’ strong and weak points first hand, instead of first gaining pre-assumptions that painstakenly have to be reset and reworked based on actual experience.

In my career as a manager in the business world I have followed this path almost every time I have put together a new team for a project or for a function. I try to start our as neutral as possible, avoidning formal introductions with professional and educational backgrounds.

As the group members meet for the first time, we say our names and tell something neutral about ourselves. The project manager presents the individual responsibilities, but mentions nothing about the individual’s background. Then as work starts, the team will work out the informal roles without preassumptions about who knows best about what.

By that the group becomes more creative and agile than it would have been going into the work with pre-assumptions about each other. Also the presumably non-experts dare to speak up with suggestions and ideas, and the group is not easily locked into traditional solutions and decisions.

This post is written in response to Zero to Hero day sixteen: 

Today’s assignment: publish a post based on your own, personalized take on today’s Daily Prompt: Do you have a reputation? What is it, and where did it come from? Is it accurate? What do you think about it?

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