As someone who helps people to invest money in developing the effectiveness of their teams, this one has come as a bit of a shock. It’s a challenge to the age-old paradigm that (to quote BusinessDictionary.com):
” A team becomes more than just a collection of people when a strong sense of mutual commitment creates synergy, thus generating performance greater than the sum of the performance of its individual members.”
It’s something I have accepted as a given throughout my working life (i.e a very long time indeed). Until today.
Now Susan Cain, author of “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking” has gone and turned this on its head. One of the key messages in the book is that research has clearly shown that workers who are given a degree of privacy are more effective, and more Creative, than those who aren’t.
I suppose upon reflection, as someone who has become self employed in recent years, I do get more done on my own than I did in either big corporate land or indeed SME land. I am my own finance, IT, marketing, sales, R&D, operations, HR, logistics and customer satisfaction department all rolled into one, and it all seems to get done. Mmmm. Would I get even more done if I were to combine my efforts with others to create a team? Maybe not, now I come to think about it. Thanks for asking, it’s a really good question.
Why are organisations so obsessed with team-building and collaboration? According to Susan, it’s down to:
“the unquestioned and wrong-headed assumption that, if one person can produce a good idea, several together can only achieve more.”
Maybe there are all sorts of other “unquestioned and wrong headed assumptions” that go unchallenged in organisations today. Could these be:
- Unless you put a deadline on activity, nothing ever gets done
- Failing to plan is planning to fail
- People with little experience need a strong Directing style of management
I could go on. I’ve come over all challenging – most unlike me! Maybe Susan is wrong to say that the paradigm is never challenged: maybe it is, but people just decide that, in fact, teamwork and collaboration is basically more fun, and a nice excuse to get away from doing real work. I do hope that doesn’t sound too cynical.
My thanks to The Week, and the synopsis by Terence Blacker from the Independent, for alerting me to this. Once again, I find that I too have fallen asleep at my own wheel.