Team energy lessons from the vineyard

"Leaders must be taught the core scientific principles of using energy to generate superlinear thinking and action."

Energy from the sun to the vineyard to the grape to the wine to the electrical signal in your brain to your ideas and actions. Exactly the same energy that drives teams and organisations.

Neil de Grasse Tyson, astrophysicist and wine lover, explains the importance of energy in our lives with the aid of grapes.

Our sun starts the process. Hydrogen atoms fuse at very high temperature to form helium. In the process particles are shed and after millions of years this energy is ejected from the surface eventually reaching earth as sunlight. This falls on the vine leaves and is absorbed through a chemical process, which in turn is used to form grapes.

We then process the grapes creating, hopefully, the golden liquid of the gods. When we drink the wine it excites an electrical signal in our brains. A flow of ideas and concepts follow firing up the voice box, facial and body muscles and with luck, a great conversation.

And herein lies the key to great teamwork.

Firstly it is important to note the nature of what happens with fusion inside the sun. The secret to fusion's longevity is that the energy needed to generate fusion is less than the energy generated. For billions of years our sun acts as a perpetual motion machine, continuously generating surplus energy to fire up life, the universe and everything. This is a superlinear process, and the key to team and organisational survival and success. (Simplistically it's like saying 1+1=3.)

According to Geoffrey West in Scale only three percent of organisations learn the secret art of superlinear strategy and action that guarantee long term survival, growth and profitability. The other ninety-seven percent use up all their energy driving down rabbit holes in pursuit of economies of scale.

  Creating Superlinear teams

From a philosophical perspective I take a pragmatist worldview. If you have an idea, concept or philosophy, show me how it works in practice. Otherwise it is just hot air. Here are some practical steps that we have evolved in the real world crucible of competing organisations.

  • Leaders must develop a deep and practical understanding of teams as systems that can gain or lose energy over time. (Sports teams and the stock market are classic examples.)
  • Leaders must be taught the core scientific principles of using energy to generate superlinear thinking and action.
  • Each leader creates the climate or context within which team members live, feel and perform. They need to learn how to do this. It is a specific set of skills, actions and behaviours that need to be learned and practised to create superlinear capability. Only a competent superlinear leader can create a superlinear team.
  • High-energy, superlinear teams are built on a foundation of trust. Again this is the result of very specific actions and behaviours. Additional factors include recognition, a degree of autonomy, a clear sense of purpose or journey, a culture of creativity and continuous learning, challenge, excitement and fun.
  • A great team is always looking for new and better ways of doing things. John Cleese has a great talk on creativity on Youtube. He offers wisdom and practice about allocating specific time and space to drive superlinearity. (In Geoffrey West terms, perhaps as many as ninety-seven percent of all global leaders fail to grasp the fundamental relevance of this message.)


The universe and life as we know it is based on superlinear energy generated in stars. This self same energy is the source of all team and organisational performance. The great teams discover the secret of superlinearity, the fine art and science of intelligent thinking and intelligent action.

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