Jake Trent

The Power of Team Combinations

The most powerful teams come from the special combinations of members.

Product of Teams

A great team is one that has a great time making a great product.

To have a great time, we must enjoy working with the others on the team. We have a productive relationship. We inspire and help one another. We communicate well. Our weaknesses and strengths fit together well and are complimented by one another.

A great product is going to be something exceptional, something that hasn’t been done before. It’s noteworthy because of its special quality, timing, application, reception, subject treatment, or other aspect.

This kind of experience and product is the result of a special confluence of people – people with special skills who came together and created something unexpectedly great.

This has happened before. Here are a few powerful combinations that I can think of.

The 2 Steves

Steve Wozniak grew up learning how things worked. Soon he was designing complex circuitry on paper. He had the special disposition of designing with the least number of parts possible. His creations were ingeniously simple and cheap.

Paired with Steve Jobs, he had someone who could market his creations. Jobs was someone who could find the sale. He could see a potential application for the technology of his partner. He brought Wozniak’s great abilities out of the shadows and found widespread application for them in personal computers marketed to the masses.

They created the first personal computer to sell 1 million units.

The 2 Johns

Both John Carmack and John Romero were writing games for small-time publishers by the time they left high school. When they discovered one another, they found in the other someone who could really understand and appreciate them.

Carmack focused on pushing advances in game engines. Every time he heard of a new industry development in graphics, he was soon to have developed a ground-breaking implementation. These advances were revolutionary in their time. His partner, Romero, was the ultimate gamer and could see how these tech advances from Carmack could be applied in radically new gaming experiences.

They formed id Software and created titles that advanced gaming and brought it into the mainstream.

The 2 Garriotts

Richard Garriott grew up playing Dungeons and Dragons. He then learned how to program on primitive terminals during high school. Soon he discovered he could combine these two skills of story telling and programming to create virtual worlds. He would have been happy to do so forever, simply enthralled in his creations.

But his brother, Robert Garriott, suggested they form a new company. He found out he could avoid a “real job”, instead continuing to create games. Robert was business-minded and helped put Richard’s creativity to use.

They formed Origin Systems and created many successful, long-running titles.

Potential Combinations

There are groups of people around us that could form great partnerships.

Each person has a special set of skills. If we considered combinations of team members more carefully, we could see greater benefit in special combinations.

How do you try to create this magic on your teams? What are some special combinations that you look for?

This inspired a meetup talk: