Book & Inventory by Geoffrey Bellman, Kevin Coray & Kathleen Ryan

Extraordinary GroupsExtraordinary Groups

How Ordinary Teams Achieve Amazing Results

Book & Inventory

About Extraordinary Groups

For three years, Geoff Bellman and Kathleen Ryan studied extraordinary group experiences, searching for the behaviors and motives and feelings that cause some groups to be perform fantastically well, group experiences that people long remember and describe with words such as amazing, outstanding, wow, or unforgettable.

They interviewed members from sixty teams, most of which met face to face, but 17% met virtually. About two-thirds of the groups were from the world of paid work, the remaining came from peoples' personal or volunteer activities. Stories of exceptional teams came from organization leaders, information technology professionals, soldiers, software developers, trainers, managers, human resource officers, small business owners, community college counselors, basketball coaches, high school teachers, doctors, nurses, event organizers, community activists, health care administrators, consultants, soccer players, parishioners, insurance executives, community volunteers, moms, government contractors, philanthropists, ministers high school students, book club members, white-water rafters, motorcycle riders, barbershop quartet singers, board members...a wonderfully diverse collection of group settings.

Once the stories were gathered, Geoff and Kathleen analyzed the patterns, pulled out the take-away messages, and developed their own theory to explain the patterns that emerged. Extraordinary Groups: How Ordinary Teams Achieve Amazing Results presents all of this.

The Core Concepts of Extraordinary Groups

Bellman and Ryan's study reveals that the transformation of groups to greatness is rooted in eight performance indicators, six core group needs, and four resulting feelings.

The eight performance indicators link to observable actions that team members identified as important to the success of their extraordinary teams. These indicators are:

  • Compelling Purpose
  • Shared Leadership
  • Just Enough Structure
  • Full Engagement
  • Embracing Differences
  • Unexpected Learning
  • Strengthened Relationships
  • Great Results

The book elaborates on each of these indicators, allowing readers to visualize the behaviors, dynamics, and circumstances that support outstanding group achievement. The Extraordinary Teams Inventory assessment tool builds from these indicators.

The six core group needs are all about what we humans seek when we join any group or team. These needs vary, person to person, but when they are met in a group, the group experience becomes more vital and collaborative. In doing so, it moves toward extraordinary. The six needs come in three pairs:

  • The Individual: Acceptance of self while moving toward one's Potential.
  • The Group: A Bond with others that grows while pursuing a common Purpose.
  • The World: Understanding the Reality of the world while collectively making an Impact.

These three pairs of needs are in creative relationship with each other, as shown in this model:


Extraordinary Groups Model


The book illustrates the importance of these needs through stories and offers numerous practical suggestions for meeting each of these needs. Team members find fulfillment when any of these six needs are met. And, fulfillment means more productivity, more motivation, and an increased likelihood of becoming an extraordinary team!

The Four Feelings result from people's needs being met within a team. The field study preceding Extraordinary Groups produced a list of hundreds of feelings that were distilled down to four. Teammates on extraordinary teams of all types feel...

  • Energized!
  • Connected!
  • Hopeful!
  • Changed!

These are the natural, positive, emotional outcomes for teams with behavior aligned with the eight indicators and the six group needs of team members. Most of us at least occasionally experience these feelings, but how do we get there? That's where the indicators and the needs and this book come in.

Bellman and Ryan pass along the learning they gained during their field study and their long experience consulting with teams and organizations. These combine to fill chapters with practical tools, examples, exercises, and actions. Twenty stories from the field illustrate key points. The book offers readers 26 strategies, 83 action steps, and 110 reflective question. And their research has continued, resulting in the Extraordinary Teams Inventory, a useful tool for putting the book into action!