On March 29, 1967, John Lennon and Paul McCartney worked on a song for Ringo Star to sing, which they had started working on the day before, write Dan Sullivan and Benjamin Hardy in Who Not How: The Formula to Achieve Bigger Goals Through Accelerating Teamwork

Hunter Davies, a journalist for the Sunday Times, was allowed to tag along.

1: John met Paul at his house in London. “John started playing his guitar and Paul started banging on his piano,” Hunter writes. “For a couple of hours they both banged away. Each seemed to be in a trance until the other came up with something good, then he would pluck it out of a mass of noises and try it himself.”

Later that night, all four Beatles met at the EMI recording studios to finish the song. Paul was on piano. John had a cowbell. Ringo played the drums. And George Harrison was on electric guitar. They performed the song ten times before finally creating a track everyone liked.

Ringo wasn’t a primary vocalist with the band. During the recording session, he received support and encouragement from the other Beatles as he sang. 

“All three of his compatriots gathered around him, inches behind the microphone, silently conducting and cheering him on as he gamely tackled his vocal duties. It was a touching show of unity among the four Beatles,” Geoff Emerick, one of the sound engineers at the session, relates in his memoir Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of the Beatles.

2: There was, however, one final challenge: “The climax of the song called for very high singing notes,” write Dan and Ben. “Ringo was terrified and later stated that it took a lot of support to hit those notes, particularly from Paul.”

After several attempts, he successfully hit the notes. “Everyone cheered and the session was over,” they recount. 

What was the name of the song the Beatles were working on that night? “With a Little Help from My Friends.”

3: Dan and Ben tease out three lessons from this story:

First, we often need encouragement to be courageous. That’s one of the big benefits of teamwork.

Second, creativity and innovation is an iterative, back-and-forth process. Rather than sitting all by ourselves “trying to perfect the idea without feedback, it’s far more effective to throw [our] ideas out there fast, get feedback from your team, and then adjust as [we] go,” they write.

Third: done is better than perfect. The faster we get at sharing our work, the faster it will transform into something extraordinary. Dan calls this “the 80 percent rule”: We can get to 80 percent of a project quickly, such as writing a rough draft. However, going from 80 percent to 90 percent is exponentially more work than going from 0 to 80 percent. Going from 90 to 100 percent is a mountain.”

To be successful, we are wise to do the first 80 percent and then quickly pass it on to the next Who. The longer we try to perfect the idea without feedback, the slower the transformation process. Stop trying to do it all ourselves, Dan and Ben urge. The sooner we get others involved, the faster and better the work will be.

More tomorrow!


Reflection: Is my tendency to work on something until it is “perfect”?

Action: Experiment with being intentional about getting feedback on my work earlier in the process.

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