The power of small teams

A few weeks ago, sitting in the audience at O’Reilly’s (very good) Cultivate conference about startup culture I started to think about the power of working in small teams, and how little you hear about it how to do it well. By small I mean two to five people — any larger and other dynamics start to come into play — but they could be independent (such as a startup’s co-founders) or within larger organisations. The truth is that it’s very different to working on your own and also very different from working within the hierarchy of a larger organisation.

When you look around, there doesn’t seem to be that much out there about what makes a small team really zing. There’s tons of productivity porn about working as an individual and reams of material about large organisations, but when it comes to practical advice about working in a small group to achieve something extraordinary, I can’t find much worth reading. Then there’s the lack of specific tools. Even things like Basecamp and Google Apps have really been designed so they can scale to larger teams and organisations. It seems there’s very little out there that’s just to help small team collaboration. If you know of any, I’d appreciate some links or recommendations.

Perhaps the truth is that tech isn’t really the problem. When you’re talking about such small groups, it’s really all about how well you get on and the culture you develop in the team. If you want to work together and you have a problem worth solving, sometimes something magical happens. I think there maybe some tricks you can use to help that along but ultimately you need the right group of people at the right time.
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