The Intangible Ingredients for a Successful Execution

Having a high IQ and industry experience is no doubt valuable when undertaking an assignment especially one that is technology based and complex in nature. Social capital is another ingredient that is as important when building successful teams but not often raised.  

The concept of social capital stemmed from a study of communities and what made them flourish and thrive in a period of stress. This same concept is readily applied today to organizational teams that are beset by constant change and ambiguity. In research findings shared by Thomas Malone, Director of MIT’s Center of Collective Intelligence, teams that have proven themselves to be more effective at creative problem solving had three common qualities. First, team members gave each other roughly equal time to talk so everyone contributed.  Second, they were socially alert and were more tuned in to each other to subtle shifts in moods and demeanor. Last and most intriguingly, the best performing teams tended to have more women perhaps because women tend to score higher on tests for empathy. 

Margaret Heffernan and Uri Alon who are leaders in their respective fields sum up the value of social capital from their hands-on experience. While a certain level of competence and autonomy is a prerequisite for motivated teams, the third ingredient of social capitalism is equally important. This allows for a greater level of trust, honest candor, and ideas to flow within a team that ultimately leads to better results. 

Bottom line - Executing on a complex initiative can be daunting and it is worthwhile to consider the intangible ingredients that can increase success. 


1. Uri Alon, How to Build a Motivated Research Group, National Institute of Health, 2010

2. Art Kleiner, Thomas Malone on Building Smarter Teams, Strategy+Business, May 12, 2014.

3. Margaret Heffernan, The secret ingredient that makes some teams better than others, TED Ideas, May 5, 2015.

4. Margaret Heffernan, Why it’s time to forget the pecking order at work, TED Talks, June 16, 2015 

May, 2016

Ninestone Team