Do You Work With Great People?

Just came across this excerpt by Richard Feynman over on the orange site:

One of the first interesting experiences I had in this project at Princeton was meeting great men. I had never met very many great men before. But there was an evaluation committee that had to try to help us along, and help us ultimately decide which way we were going to separate the uranium. This committee had men like Compton and Tolman and Smyth and Urey and Rabi and Oppenheimer on it. I would sit in because I understood the theory of how our process of separating isotopes worked, so they’d ask me questions and talk about it. In these discussions, one man would make a point. Then Compton, for example, would explain a different point of view. He would say it should be this way, and he was perfectly right. Another guy would say, well, maybe, but there is this other possibility that we have to consider against it.

So everybody is disagreeing, all around the table. I am surprised and disturbed that Compton doesn’t repeat and emphasize his point. Finally, at the end, Tolman, who’s the chairman, would say, “Well, having heard all these arguments, I guess it’s true that Compton’s argument is the best of all, and now we have to go ahead.”

It was such a shock to me to see that a committee of men could present a whole lot of ideas, each one thinking of a new facet, while remembering what the other fella said, so that, at the end, the decision is made as to which idea was the best—summing it all up—without having to say it three times. These were very great men indeed.

“Surely you’re joking, Mr. Feynman!” – Richard Feynman – Source

Often I forget that such open discussions without political or egotistical angles aren’t the norm, and then I’m grateful for being part of (and partially leading) a team, where we attack the problems from all sides instead of each other.

Are you actively listening to what other team members are saying? Do you try to expand on other team members’ ideas and not just push your own “perfect” solution? Can you follow the overall argumentation/discussion during a meeting?

Do you work with great people?

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