Chapter 1Commit: To Know the Rules, You Have to Make Them

Even a lone genius needs help from a team.

British mathematician Alan Turing1 learned this lesson in his race to crack the sophisticated code used by the German military in World War II. Turing was the consummate rogue intellectual, a brilliant savant who foresaw the modern computer and the advent of artificial intelligence. He envisioned a machine that could use algorithms to solve any mathematical problem. But when the British government tapped him to join an elite team of cryptographers tasked with deciphering the famous German Enigma machine, he balked.

Turing was famous for being socially awkward and eccentric. He was known to hold his pants up with string and ride his bicycle to work with a gas mask during allergy season. He at first believed that working in a group would only slow him down. But he eventually came to appreciate the collective capabilities of his fellow mathematicians in the secretive “Hut 8” of the government's central code-breaking station. The group succeeded in besting the most powerful cipher machine in the world because the right foundations for team success were laid, ensuring the output of the whole would be more than the sum of its parts.

In other words, Turing and his group of cryptographers established the rules that created a culture of high-performing teamwork.

For starters, the team was committed to a clear common goal of cracking the German code in a highly distinctive way. Rather ...

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