A hearty band of travelers, brought together by the vagaries of fortune and misfortune, find themselves on a journey upon which the fate of the world/universe/future hinges. They come from different walks of life, have different personalities, have different strengths and weaknesses. In spite of those differences, in fact, because of those differences, they triumph over the odds and succeed in achieving the impossible.
Familiar? Should be. In fact, it may sound like any number of novels. Right now, it sounds like the novel I’m reading (the second of Dan Simmons two Hyperion novels.) But, the example most familiar to most people is probably The Lord of the Rings. (A dwarf, an elf, a wizard, two men, and four hobbits walk into a bar…no, wait, no time for that joke). But you can go all the way back to The Canterbury Tales (upon which, I am pretty sure, Simmons modeled some of his novel) and see the beginnings of this concept; groups of people brought together to explore their differences and similarities.
All of this leading to a serendipitous moment. (“Chance favors the prepared mind” as someone once said [actually a lot of different people are quoted as saying it, but because I don’t want to play favorites, I won’t single anyone out], but “Serendipity favors the ones who are paying attention.” I just made that up. Be sure to remember that when the Bartlett’s people come calling.)
So, a serendipitous moment. I also just finished co-facilitating an IIA seminar on communication which included discussions on people’s social skills. The class began talking about teams, the building of teams, and the need to consider various social skills in the building of those teams. Serendipity struck (Can serendipity strike ? No time to worry about details – we’re on a roll here) when I realized how much this discussion of teams had in common with understanding the makeup of travelling groups that so often show up in fiction. Here’s how.
In the discussion, we hit on two points.
The first was that the best teams are those that have variety. Just like the adventurers in fiction, a mix of talents results in a better chance of success.
The second was that people tend to hire themselves. And when people hire themselves, they do not build variety, with a resulting negative impact on the team’s ability to succeed.
All leading to this point – why is it that so many of the stereotypes about auditors seem to be true? (They aren’t true? Then when was the last time you had anybody in Auditing hired by Marketing? Or any other department that seems the antithesis of Audit? The stereotypes are deeply rooted in fact, and I invite you to use the comments to prove me wrong.) Why are the stereotypes true? Because we hire ourselves. Because we do not focus on building diverse styles within our teams. Because we really don’t focus on trying to change.
(Man. What happened? This started as a nice little discussion about books and teams and serendipity and how we can make teams better, and the next thing you know it’s a rant about the profession. Goes to show what can happen with five straight days of too little sleep. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking with it.)
You see, if Auditing wants to achieve new things for the profession; heck, if we want to be considered an up and coming profession, then we need to confront the perceptions about our profession and take serious steps to correct not the perception, but the roots of that perception. And that means focusing on developing teams that have variety. No, we don’t throw out the stodgy (because a successful team has all types), but we strive to achieve a better mix. We have the stodgy, and we have the innovator, and we have the analyzer, and we have the leader, and we have the facilitator, and we have extrovert, and we have the introvert, and we have every different type we can find to ensure we are seeing the problems from all different perspectives. In other words, we need to hire an elf, a dwarf, a wizard, two men, and four hobbits. And with that team, we successfully storm Mordor.