Simon Sinek on How Glassblowing Class Teaches Teamwork

In Chapter 15 of 20 in his 2011 Capture Your Flag interview with host Erik Michielsen, author and leadership expert Simon Sinek takes his team to a glassblowing class and learns about collaboration and project ownership. The exercise teaches the team the importance of shared ownership and responsibility. Simon Sinek is a trained ethnographer who applies his curiosity around why people do what they do to teach leaders and companies how to inspire people. He is the author of "Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action". Sinek holds a BA degree in cultural anthropology from Brandeis University.


Erik Michielsen: What’d you learn when you took your team to the glassblowing class?

Simon Sinek: Well for one thing we learned teamwork, big time, that you cannot produce a piece of glass in a glassblowing class without somebody else. You must work with somebody else. And so we were producing these pieces – these vases and these wonderful things – and the question is who do they belong to? Is it the person who was doing the physical blowing? Is it the person who was doing the turning? Is it the person who did the dipping? Who does the piece belong to? 

Now, you could arbitrarily say, the person who dips, it’s their piece. But in reality, everything you’re producing belongs to two people, or at least two people. And that’s a pretty amazing thing. So, you know, when you’re working at work, who does your work belong to? Does it belong to you, or does it belong to the collective? And so, we learned that from our glassblowing, it was really great. Because we were divvying up the stuff it was like, well, “Who? I kind of worked on this a little more than you…” It was very hard to divvy this stuff up, because we all owned it.