Build high performance teams

A group of people will be smarter and stronger than any one individual. Our prosperity has been built on this principle. Cooperation requires a common goal. Banding together to fight off predators. Hunting animals faster or stronger than you. Aligning to fight off other tribes. Born vulnerable, our ancestors were unlikely victors. Lacking the lion’s strength, the rhino’s protective thick skin, and the cheetah’s speed our odds of survival looked grim. People cooperating resulted in the winning survival strategy to overcome the dangerous forces of nature.

We not only survived but prospered and evolved to become the apex predator. Cooperation continues to be the organizing principle of our institutions. Business, religion, government, and sports all involve groups of people cooperating and aligning around a common aim.

Startups and professional sports involve groups of highly skilled people in pursuit of a common purpose. And they have a lot in common. Both are highly competitive stressful environments with large financial investment at stake. Winning requires peak performance. Recruiting top talent is essential to achieve success. Strong group identity creates shared norms, values, and behaviors. Culture, strategy, and grit make the difference between winning and losing. Both employ technology to obsessively track metrics to learn faster.

With all of these similarities, why don’t knowledge workers train like professional athletes? Science has taught us a lot about how to optimize human performance. Professional sports teams take a holistic approach to optimize performance of each player. They seek out unfair advantage wherever possible. Nutrition, sleep, mental training, physical conditioning, and specialized coaching. Frequent feedback loops are used to accelerate learning.

Your brain performs better when you sleep well, exercise, and maintain a healthy diet. As a knowledge worker, your habits impact your performance. Exercise provides the single most effective way to improve your cognitive ability. Cognitive decline begins in healthy educated adults in their twenties and early thirties. Increasing blood flow to your brain on a consistent basis prevents cognitive decline. Exercise also reduces stress, increases your energy, prevents injury, strengthens your immune system, and combats disease.

Insufficient sleep leads to getting sick and making mistakes. If you sleep less than seven hours a night you accumulate sleep debt which impacts your brain function and immune system. Your attention, response time, creativity, decision making ability becomes compromised.

Eating a healthy diet improves your performance at work. Companies gain productivity due to healthier employees and reduced sick days. Maintaining healthy eating habits boosts your immune system, improves mood, controls weight gain, and combat disease.

High performance cultures are built on high performance habits. Peak performance requires proactively designing your culture around rapid learning, trust, accountability, and habits to improve mental fitness. Habits to improve mental performance are not limited to sleep, exercise, and diet. Mental fitness also requires exposing yourself to new ideas, considering a diversity of viewpoints, and learning new skills. Your team’s learning accelerates through consistent daily practice and feedback. Design daily habits around these principles to build a high-performance team.


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