Monday, November 17, 2008

Team of Rivals

There's been a lot of talk these days about Obama choosing a "Team of Rivals" for his Cabinet, just as Abraham Lincoln did-a group of officials with a wide variety of political opinions, including even bitter rivals such as William Seward (or Hillary Clinton).

So I figure that this is a good time to discuss my own experience with the "Team of Rivals" concept. It was the fall of 2003, and I was in Econ 115a. In that class, there were Homework assignments every week. And I could have decided to just sit down and do the Homework every week on my own. But like Lincoln and now Obama, I decided I would get input from other great minds and together we would come up with something better than anything I alone could do. The genius of the "Team of Rivals" idea is that the members of the team bring their strengths to the table and make up for each others' deficiencies.

So I assembled a "Team of Rivals" who could make up for my deficiencies of not having gone to lecture, not having done the reading, and not having slotted any time in my busy schedule of poker playing and sleeping for doing homework. Of course the first member of my "Team of Rivals" was Munz, who had the strength of having gone to lecture, done the reading and already done the homework correctly. Next on the team was Actual God, who had the similar strengths of having done the homework correctly and done the reading. Finally, we had some other guy (maybe Austin Allen?) who had the strength of getting Munz cheeseburgers from the Buttery. But we were Rivals filled with bitter disputes in our past- Actual God resented me for (supposedly) having brought him to the Homework session just as a way to get in with Munz, Munz resented me for not contributing anything positive to the group, and Actual God resented Munz because I trusted his answers more.

In working with this "Team of Rivals," I realized that my own strength was as "Copier-in-Chief," who could wrangle the correct answer from this ragtag group of combative strivers. Whether it was saying buzzwords like "Deadweight loss" apropos of nothing after Munz had explained the entire answer or suggesting to Actual God that "I think the supply curve shifts to the left in this problem" as a way to stall for time as I furiously copied his graph over his shoulder, I helped bring the group together and manage the gigantic egos.

So I hope President-Elect Obama heeds the lessons of my own experience with a "Team of Rivals" - hear from a variety of different voices, manage conflicts, and for God's sake don't ever, ever do your own work.


Ed Prince said...

what's with this obsession with delino deshields. he's a cousin of mine, and my brother and I used to idolize him... let me know what your motive is... either way, I love it.

Anonymous said...

Classic post. More Yale circa 2003 content.