It’s spring training season where I live (in Fort Myers, Florida). The Boston Red Sox train here in a facility lovingly known as Fenway South. Now, imagine a player strolling into the facility today and declaring that he’s done with personal conditioning. “I’ve had it,” he begins. “I’m tired of all this. So… no more running, no more strength training, no more stretching or batting practice. Forget good nutrition and hydration. I’m headed to watch TV with my Wendy’s Triple and a Frosty. I’ll see you on Opening Day.”


Now, of course that would never happen. But even if it did, it would never be tolerated. Why? Elite sports teams are made up of players that possess both mad skills and a religious-like commitment to improving those skills. You can’t have a team of mediocre and disinterested-in improvement-baseball players, magically morph into an elite baseball team. Not going to happen. Ripples, ripple outward. Elite teams are elite first because of the skills of individual players and their commitment to continuous improvement. It ripples first from the individual to the team. Of course cohesive teams can improve the quality of individual performance. But it goes without saying that elite teams, or groups of any kind, can’t be elite if they are made up of disinterested and mediocre members.


The center of my work is a framework I designed called, Tribal Alchemy. Work, or interest-based tribes, can use the framework to increase the quality and frequency of their collective ingenuity. That is, to turn what they have into what they need in order to overcome challenges and seize opportunities. In the last quarter of the book, I note that if a tribe wants to be elite at collective ingenuity, the tribe must be populated by individuals that posses personal ingenuity and the will to improve that skill.  Just like elite sports teams posses players with very specific skills, including the will to improve, tribes that are elite at performing alchemy posses individuals with the skill of personal ingenuity and the will to continue to improve it.


Personal ingenuity fuels collective ingenuity.


If you want to increase your tribe’s ingenuity quotient, have a conversation about how each tribe members personal ingenuity quotient.  Then make a commitment to develop personal ingenuity and bring that personal ingenuity back to the tribe as a mad skill. When you do, you are “alchemy ready” as an individual. And when an entire tribe of alchemy ready individuals gather, creative solution making–at the collective level– is far more likely.


You can check out four practices individuals can develop to be more personally ingenious in the book, Tribal Alchemy: Turning What You Have Into What You Need.