How We Build Strong Teams at LaunchX Summer
By Laurie stach
July 12, 2016
When we think about the people behind successful companies like Facebook and Tesla, the first names that come to mind are Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk. Media tends to portray these CEOs as individuals who run the show with a billion dollar idea. It is important to recognize, though, that it takes a cohesive team to build a successful company.
At MIT Launch, team dynamics is one of the most important parts of our entrepreneurial culture. Usually students are anxious about the teaming process long before they actually arrive at Launch. From the day that admissions decisions are released to the day that teams are finalized, students ceaselessly bombard the MIT Launch team with questions about the “hows” and “whys” of teaming.
This post is our attempt to explain the complex process and the important considerations of teaming, though unfortunately, there is not a secret recipe or fail-proof algorithm to build perfect teams — it’s a case by case situation. There are MANY components that are taken into consideration to increase the chances of Launch team alignment and success. After the first few days of the program, ideas are pitched to the class and students submit their preferences of ideas and teammates. MIT Launch uses this as one factor to determine well-balanced and passionate teams, but there are many more items that are considered.
What factors into a good team?
- Amount of passion team members feel towards the idea
- Variety of experience and qualifications
- Complementary of skill sets
- Balance of personalities
Passion: It’s important to love what you do! This is the foundation of any good team – to be truly united behind a shared mission and vision for what change you want to see in the world. That’s why we really value the top ideas that students choose to work on. We put together students who are as excited about the idea as the originator so teams will have momentum to continue past Launch.
Experience and qualifications: Every year, we are extremely impressed by the caliber of our applicants and students. These students have founded organizations and events, competed at the world robotics championship, built top selling apps, and have started amazing companies. Most students have a concentration in an industry, and they will wish to continue working within this industry at MIT Launch. We value the expertise that these students already have, and enable them to make the most of it in their teams.
Skill Sets: MIT Launch students are asked to self-identify as hackers, hustlers, designers, or any combination of the three. We make sure that companies with a need for hardware design have designers, and companies focusing on software development have hackers on board. Teams may ultimately have any combination of skill sets, depending on the idea and cross-functionality of the individuals. Sometimes, students have a false perception about the need for a hacker/designer as a core member of the founding team. For example, app-based or web-based startups often only need wireframes to prove demand and build an MVP (minimal viable product). These same teams have often found that the ideal solution to their customer’s need does not require any hacking skills at all, or that it is more effective to bring on other teammates later to advance product development with a more refined vision.
Personalities: We have all been in that situation when multiple type-A personalities cannot stop butting heads. There is a fine line between between being assertive about ideas, and trying to force ideas on each other. At MIT Launch, we try to have activational, relational, and strategic personalities work together to be able to connect the big picture with tactical next steps, communicate well with customers and each other, and balance planning with action.
How does MIT Launch support our teams? Teaming is only the beginning of creating positive team dynamics. To help teams work through conflicts and other minor issues, MIT Launch staff hold weekly check-ins with each team, discussing decision making, working styles, and more. We also have one-on-ones with students in each team to get a more in-depth perspective about the components of teams that seem to go well or less well. Stay tuned to learn about the progress of our teams!