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For Business
December 6, 2013

Why the lone genius is really a myth

But does the archetype of the lone genius have any basis in reality? The truth is that that even the best and brightest throughout history had a little help.

For example, Thomas Edison filled his historic West Orange lab with a hand-picked team of proven scientists, who he referred to as ‘muckers’. Together they worked six days a week, testing and improving multiple inventions at once, and the ‘mucker’ model has since become the very template for contemporary research and development departments.


The same is true of the creation of the computer. An idea as complex and revolutionary as this never appeared fully-formed in the head of a single person. It’s the result of lifetimes’ worth of thought, correspondence, and prototyping from inventors and engineers like Charles Babbage, Ada Lovelace, and Alan Turing, all building on each other’s ideas.

It’s the same here at Nokia too; we worked closely with the Windows Phone team on the Lumia 1020. In an interview, Kevin Shields, the SVP SD of Product and Program Management, explains how the Nokia-Windows Phone team came together:

“It’s easy to get fixated on this one feature—this terrific 41-megapixel sensor that we’re shipping—but there was a lot of unseen work on the Windows Phone side that went into it: plumbing and UI (user interface) changes to bring out the best of that component and make the camera experience possible. Our collaboration with Microsoft was super important to making the Lumia 1020 the great product that it is.”

5 reasons teams can beat working alone

Many lone geniuses are backed up by teams

Here are five reasons why teams can beat working alone:

1. Creativity

By working with others, you dramatically increase your potential for creative breakthroughs and left-field innovation. Everybody has their own unique approach to any problem, so the more minds involved, the greater cognitive ground you cover.

2. Support

When the rush is on, being able to sound the alarm and power through an emergency as a group will greatly reduce the burden of deadlines. After all, many hands make light work, or so they say.

3. Multitasking

While we don’t recommend multitasking for individuals, a team can maintain multiple overlapping projects with relative ease, as each member concentrates on just one task at a time before swapping with a colleague.

4. Scrutiny

Anybody who has dabbled in proofreading knows that very often you can be blind to glaring errors purely through being too familiar with the material. The same applies to any project. Working as a team increases the chances that flaws will be spotted and corrected before becoming problematic.

5. Wellness

Being part of a close social group such as a business team comes with a multitude of health benefits; both physical and mental. An MIT study at the Human Dynamics Laboratory found that 12 internal communications per hour is the ideal level for productivity; any more is distracting, any less can result in low-morale and anxiety.

What teams do you find the most inspiring? Can you think of an example of a true lone genius – someone who created something in total isolation?

Be sure to check back for more soon, and if you’d like to read more about team flow in the meantime, why not download our free Teams That Flow ebook?