Personality Poker: The Playing Card Tool for Driving High-Performance Teamworkand Innovation

Image of Personality Poker: The Playing Card Tool for Driving High-Performance Teamworkand Innovation
Release Date: 
October 27, 2010
Portfolio Hardcover
Reviewed by: 

Face it, denizens of the business world, our teamwork is and always has been an unmitigated disaster.

Ever since the first ancient entrepreneur decided he was too important to waste time on mundane tasks like dealing with employees, the job of hiring, managing, evaluating and rewarding people has been done either by never-saw-a-business-plan-we-understood HR departments or clueless amateurs—that is, the very managers entrusted to get the company staggering over the annual P&L finish line.

Even nursery schoolers do better than most corporate types at coming together. In fact, the only adult team worth a lick of respect was a group of security types who guarded a village from professional stick-up artists. Although each man had a reason for undertaking this thankless job, he put aside personal motives to achieve a bigger goal–honor.

Whoops, that was a movie, The Seven Samurai. Sorry.

If it seems easy to succumb to frivolity when mixing people and business, the publishing world helps grease the way. Exhibit A: Stephen M. Shapiro’s Personality Poker: The Playing Card Tool for Driving High-Performance Teamwork and Innovation.

Mr. Shapiro merits no animus. Indeed, he has written a fun book that is almost a cry in the wilderness to not hire people like yourself. He understands that teams must be diverse—not necessarily by race, sexual identity, etc.—but by personality and work style.

He divides high-performing business teams into four categories: people who prefer facts and principles; those who go on ideas and experiences; plan-and-action types; and relationship junkies. Smart, innovative organizations, Shapiro asserts, contain each kind of personality traipsing the hallways and gracing conference rooms. As important, the person you like least is often the person you need most on a team, e.g. “You complete me, Harold, though I despise you. . . .”

Shapiro drills down the four personality types and, frankly, it’s not a bad model—particularly since most workplaces hire and manage the way the Borgias consumed duchies.

But lurking in Shapiro’s thesis is the notion that innovation and creativity derive from day-to-day office workings. Nonesense. Ideas consume time and money to pursue; the compelling reasons for a firm’s existence were put into play long before most people came aboard. Instead, team management is, first and foremost, about reaching consensus, getting the job done, and exercising mind control to achieve the first two. Top leaders don’t want a new direction. Heck, they’re holding the compass—they want the sherpas to hack the way up to the profitable mountaintop.

Enough theory. The best part of Shapiro’s book is that it comes with a deck of Personality Poker playing cards. Try them alone, with your work team, or even your family. (Actually, be careful with the kids; my ten-year-old ran to the bathroom in tears when Mom chose the “high-maintenance” card as one of her descriptors.)

Books with accessories like Shapiro’s playing cards are diabolical catnip for certain reviewers (see the byline of one below), and authors and editors know this. Add-ons like these are the big-boy version of those Klutz Books that teach kids how to juggle, play the harmonica, and knit—and they always come with the stuff to learn it!

When you think of it, the sky’s the limit for this kind of publishing strategy. So, in the seasonal spirit of generosity, these examples are offered free of charge to beleaguered book marketing directors:

—A leveraged-buyout text that comes with $76,000 of Aunt Claudia’s money, a foreclosure notice on her home, and some cheap Detroit condos.

—The latest guide on corporate governance, each reader getting a team of actors to portray the Hewlett-Packard board and a Mark Hurd bash-me doll.

—A tome on energy strategy complete with one barrel of crude and several solar panels. You get to figure out how best to heat your miserable ranch house.

Happily, besides helping form better teams, Stephen Shapiro has provided us another rationale for why literature must continue to be three-dimensional despite the onslaught of e-books. It’s the same reason cereal comes in boxes—how else are you going to package the toys?