If you have any designs on management, it’ll help your cause to learn some of the more iconic bits of that problem domain’s lore. Software people would be more impressive at cocktail hour by being able to speak intelligently about object oriented vs structured vs functional programming or about relational vs document databases. Management people would be more impressive at their own cocktail hours being able to bandy about Drucker, lean principles, and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. And if you hang out at enough of these cocktail hours, you will be unable to avoid Tuckman’s stages of group development.
The short version of these stages is the catchy rhyme, “form, storm, norm, perform.” The groups starts off being polite and feeling one another out, but they’re more or less too deferential to make serious progress. After a bit, egos and tempers flare, people jockey for influence and rivalries emerge — the group ‘storms.’ Only once the team has duked it out and subsequently hugged it out can they move on to ‘norming,’ wherein they gruffly put up with one another’s peccadilloes in pursuit of a common goal. And, finally, in the end, they all live happily ever after, humming along as a well-oiled machine.
Of course, this not only applies to feel-good stories of organizational politics, but also to about 90% of action movies in the history of the planet. Whether it’s erstwhile enemies Maverick and Iceman agreeing to wingman each other at the end of Top Gun or the romance plot between Han, Leia and Luke eventually sorting itself out, we all get warm fuzzies when the former stormers become performers. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.) Everyone likes a good tale of “form, storm, norm, perform.”
We like it so much, in fact, that I commonly hear variants of the idea that teams should be encouraged to ‘storm.’ It’s something like, “we want a team full of people that engage in fierce, angry debate to surface the best ideas, then, when 5:00 rolls around, they let it all go and happily go out to dinner.” I’ve heard this described as “harnessing creative conflict,” or some such, and it echoes the management (Hollywood) narrative that through challenging one another and letting emotions run high, a catharsis of sorts occurs and all participants come out more creative and more closely bonded for their ordeal. It’s an appealing notion, and it’s also the epitome of the “extrovert ideal.”
The extrovert ideal was a term coined (I think) in Susan Cain’s, “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking.” It refers to the notion that society has deemed extroversion the ‘correct’ choice between introversion and extroversion. “Storm to perform” is very much an extrovert thing. But I’ll return to that later.