Teamwork and Collaboration
Teamwork – Is it Over-Rated?
Most organizations talk a lot about the importance of teams and teamwork and often wish they had more of it. However, is the desire for more teamwork as important to organizational success as it is suggested to be or is it somewhat overrated (and the pursuit of it even counterproductive)?
At first sight, the thought of a closely knit and flexible team, with a strong sense of collaboration and cooperation to achieve its goals seems hard to argue with, and we can then spend a huge amount of time encouraging as much teamwork as possible at all levels. However, if we look a little closer, even this ideal is not always what we want or need. In fact, some workplace research studies suggest that as much as 90% of all tasks are done by individuals working entirely alone and without any regular input from a wider team, even if it is part of a wider project that the team as a whole is responsible for producing. This means that we need to perhaps better understand, and spend more time on, what tends to get best done outside the team or when someone works better alone (or with only one or two people perhaps).
Although it is a somewhat over simplistic approach, one useful way in which we might think about individual versus teamwork is to look at what tends to be done well by a team and then done well by an individual. This will naturally vary from one organization to the next but in broad terms a split might look like this:
|Working in a team||Working as an individual|
What this simple table illustrates is that we may find it more useful to think about which tasks and projects are best allocated to a whole team, and then let that team split them up accordingly, and which can go straight to an individual without asking them to work with the team in any way. For this latter category of work (which may be quite a lot in volume terms) teamwork is clearly to be avoided.
In his autobiography, Apple co-founder Steven Wozniak wrote, “Most inventors and engineers I’ve met are like me … they live in their heads. They’re almost like artists. In fact, the very best of them are artists. And artists work best alone … I’m going to give you some advice that might be hard to take. That advice is: Work alone… Not on a committee. Not on a team.” Although this view may well take the pendulum too far on the continuum, it nicely sums up the need to think about individual creativity and productivity as at least just as important as overall team productivity and success.