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History Teaches Us: Team with Your Opposite

Source | LinkedIn : By Bruce Kasanoff

Ron Chernow has written brilliant books about George Washington, John D. Rockefeller,  the “House of Morgan”, and the Warburg Family. Chernow is warm, intelligent, and has the soul of a novelist in the body of a historian. But, as he admitted tonight, historians have often written somewhat over the heads of younger generations.

It took Lin-Manuel Miranda to recognize that Chernow’s Hamilton biography was the perfect story for a hip-hop Broadway musical. That musical is a massive hit and is bringing Chernow’s insights to a far wider audience than he ever imagined reaching.

Outwardly, Miranda and Chernow have little in common. If Chernow had set out to create a musical, he would have failed miserably. If Miranda had endeavored to write a biography, he would have met a similar fate.

Time and again, Chernow admits, he was initially baffled by Miranda’s instincts. Tell American history with hip-hop music? Use other musical forms – jazz, or Beatles-era tunes – to represent the different generations interacting in Hamilton’s day? Give the cast historically accurate costumes from the neck down, but have them be modern-day individualists from the neck up?

Broadway’s Hamilton musical is a rare cultural phenomenon because it is the product of extraordinarily different people working together even when they didn’t know of the other’s existence.

Allow me to demonstrate how this happens all the time. Earlier today, a publicist sent me a copy of Matthew E. May’s excellent book Winning the Brain Game: Fixing the 7 Fatal Flaws of Thinking. Neither the publicist nor May (a former classmate of mine from Wharton) knew that later tonight I would hear Chernow speak at my local library’s annual gala… or that May’s work would help me understand the remarkable collaboration between Miranda and Chernow.

Here comes the fun part: I get to make the connection.

In the same manner, you can make other connections later today, later this week, and for the rest of your life.

May points out that people tend to rush to solve problems, in many cases asking the wrong questions and thus solving the wrong problem entirely. He writes, “Immediately and instinctively leaping to solutions in a sort of mental knee-jerk almost never leads to an elegant solution to an unfamiliar, complex problem, because not enough time is devoted to framing the issue properly.”

This tendency is compounded immensely when you hire and work with people who think just like you do.

Read On…

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