Book Review – Team Renaissance: The Art, Science & Politics of Great Teams

Book Review – Team Renaissance: The Art, Science & Politics of Great Teams

Authors Richard Spoon and Jan Risher collaborate for a book entitled Team Renaissance: The Art, Science & Politics of Great Teams, which is a modern day manual for creating effective teams in the workplace. The book was released in 2013, so the stories and data are fresh and memorable in most cases.

On the surface, this book is designed beautifully. The large, heavyweight paper, along with the hard cover, gives the book a first-class feel. While flipping through the 198-page book, you get a sense of organization and high quality content due to the use of the color, design, diagrams and lists throughout the chapters.

The entire book is packed full of data, stories, outlines, quizzes and step-by-step lists of how to’s. In fact, this book reminded me a lot of a college textbook because of its definition-like style, exercises, and short case studies to introduce new ideas.

Spoon and Risher undoubtedly did their research for this book, as there are quotes from hundreds of leaders throughout and in-depth stories that tie directly to each chapter. The amount of experience-driven content is what makes this book decent; however, it is the conveyance of the content that did not engage me.

One example of disengagement is the beginning of the book. In the first two chapters the authors essentially summarized in detail what the remaining chapters in the book would cover. And, to be honest, I almost gave up on the book because it was such dry reading up to that point. It took until the third chapter for the authors to spice the content up with leadership stories from professional sports and the business world; all of which, I found to be very good.

Just about every chapter that followed the first two started with a story to introduce a new idea.  The stories were very applicable to the subject matter and I personally found them engaging and wanting more. However, once the stories concluded, that’s when the lists and textbook-style writing kicked back into full gear. And I ultimately found myself let down each time the opening story would abruptly conclude. This could be a personal preference, but I much prefer business books that use a lot of real examples from the business world—whether real or fake—and intertwine it through all the content. Use of stories and studies allow a reader, like me, to easily relate and absorb the new information; and I really feel like Team Renaissance missed the mark on that front.

Because of the way the book is written, I would highly encourage someone who intends on reading Team Renaissance to go chapter by chapter for each sitting and take notes; also, it might be a good idea to highlight areas to apply at the office. Reading the entire book in two sittings, like I did, is not ideal with a book like this. It just becomes too much information at a certain point.

My overly critical comments on the dryness of the book are, in part, my fault for the way I read this book cover to cover. I would have got much more if I read each chapter and discussed the concepts with another teammate.

One of my favorite chapters—Chapter 9: Consistent Communication—opened up with an excellent story about the Beatles’ lack of communication and why the band broke up; the authors then followed up with sections on effective listening, giving & taking feedback and clarifying roles and responsibilities in teams. Two other chapters I also found very enlightening were Chapter 8: Relevant Rewards and Chapter 5: Efficient Processes. Any business leader will most certainly take away good ideas from these two chapters that they can immediately apply in their workplace.

Team Renaissance is a highly respectable book, as it is loaded with fantastic information; but I find it to be one that ultimately should be the foundation of a college course in business management and leadership.

Brandon Laws

As Director of Marketing, Brandon Laws leads all marketing efforts for Xenium, providing oversight on all marketing campaigns, digital marketing strategy, events, sponsorships and public relations. Brandon brings a positive energy to every aspect of his role at Xenium—from internal initiatives around culture and wellness to industry thought leadership through the Xenium podcast and other social efforts. Active within the HR community, he currently volunteers on the board of the Portland Human Resource Management Association as the Director of Marketing & PR.

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