Great teams that achieve phenomenal success are not always composed of shining overachievers and geniuses. In fact, when an otherwise ordinary team can meet a certain set of fundamental needs, the results can be transformative on the individual, organizational, and global levels.

This is the premise of Bellman and Ryan's Extraordinary Groups, which explores teams through the framework of the Group Needs Model. The authors' model consists of six core group elements (shown in bold below), which are in turn divided into three pairs, or "loops," of experiences as illustrated in the book:

  • Self - Acceptance of self while moving toward one's potential
  • Group - A bond with others that grows while pursuing a common purpose
  • World - Understanding the reality of the world while collectively making an impact.

These elements and the model that they merge to build are a result of extensive study and fieldwork, which yielded eight indicators of extraordinary groups: a compelling purpose, shared leadership, just-enough-structure, full engagement, embracing differences, unexpected learning, strengthened relationships, and of course, great results both tangible and intangible. The authors found that these eight values existed in some quantity or combination in every team studied. And like these attributes, for most teams, at least five of six core needs were met as well.

Transformation is another central theme - after all, the authors put forth the concept that working as part of a highly successful group can, and should, be the kind of powerful experience that makes individuals shift their thinking and behavior for some greater good.

The book is indeed well-organized. The first section provides a three-chapter overview of teams, both ordinary and extraordinary, while the second digs deep into the Group Needs Model, with a keen focus on what change and transformation can mean to groups and the results that they render.

The final section is devoted entirely to the "sharing leadership" indicator. This section is where the authors' model really springs into action since every person who is, or intends to be, part of a successful group requires an understanding of the "risk, perseverance, patience, and leadership" involved. The kind of commitment, communication, and collaborative skills needed are described in great detail here, along with several series of useful "reflective questions" for group members.

Extraordinary Groups is written with a broad audience in mind - from executives to trainers, this is a book designed for all those looking to ensure that their small group is equipped to make a big impact, one person at a time. The tone is extremely conversational and strives to make a connection with readers that is personal and emotional, but never uncomfortable.

Three cheers and three cups for Extraordinary Groups.