Individualism conflicts with teamwork. The willingness of one to placate himself, to utilize, to succeed building a career, opposing to the need to fit yourself to the environment, to people that may work and think in a different pace that may have other perceptions and other agendas.
Organizational thinking, there seems to be a conflict as well: We were taught that teamwork is a good thing. However, teamwork costs more: More time as to the need of synchronization; and more money as duplication exists.
Yet, teamwork should not be considered part of the past. Teamwork is a value, one of the values that belongs, not only to the Human Resources department, seeking for the ideal. Furthermore; in the 21st century, when many of us are knowledge workers, and our knowledge is one of the main things causing the organization to move on and succeed, in such a time, teamwork is important, one may even say essential, threefold: From the individual perception; form the organizational perception; and from the business perception.
I shall explain:
As individuals, even though we may eager for individualism, we need a network of support and we need a belonging. These of course can be developed in an organizational level, with no teams, but are not enough as such. We need a close group of reference. One that will see us in the morning, and ask why we might seem worried. One that will share our happiness and success, and share our sad moments as well. One that we can turn to when we are in distress. A close group. Belonging can be built also within big groups, however being part of a team, conceptualizes the belonging and makes it fell reality.
In the past years, a new type of relations has emerged, similar to teams, but actually serving some other functionality: Social networks. A social network deals with relations between peoples, but focuses on week relations. In teams, we deal with tight relations. A Social network cannot be a replacement and solution providing the belonging level nor the support network as provided by a team structure.
Examining the organizational angle, teamwork is a very important value. In their book, Collaboration 2.0, Levine and Coleman write, that teamwork includes, among other benefits, the following advantages:
- It strengthens the individuals commitment;
- It raises satisfaction level from the workplace;
- It enables advanced trust and communication.
No doubt, that obtaining even only one of these is enough for us to understand that organizational speaking, teamwork is a positive thing. How much more so, when speaking about all three.
Professionally speaking, teamwork is surprising. We could have thought that in an era of knowledge, when everyone has his or her own expertise, there is no real business benefit to working in teams. However, this is not the case. Teamwork brings better business value, than working separately. Nonaka and Takeuchi, in their book "The Knowledge Creating Company", taught us, how Japanese companies create the dynamics of innovation. Knowledge, they write, develops in teams / small groups. Not in the individual experts' brains. Socialization; that is how they name the first stage of four in which knowledge is created. A stage that deals with transferring the tacit knowledge from the individual to a close group. The knowledge may start from the individual, but it develops through the transition and within the group. Other researchers, who analyzed learning processes, agree with this finding: Teamwork improves the quality of products and other outcomes, improves the efficiency of obtaining them, and advances the innovation and creativity related with them.
Teamwork helps improvement individual concerning, organizational concerning and business concerning.
Nevertheless, so I believe, life is not as simple as it sounds. Working in a team is not always convenient. People have to compromise and understand that the team may work or decide according to their colleague recommendations, and not as they thought.
Teamwork can cause a herd effect, where the group influences the individual, not always in a positive way.
Moreover, teamwork can yield duplication in resources cost.
How can the potential of a team be utilized? Buchel, in her article "Knowledge Creation and Transfer: From Teams to the Whole Organization", published as part of Nonaka's and Ichujo's book "Knowledge Creation and Management", writes about two main factors of the team, that influence the human capital and improved performance:
- Density of relations within the group.
- Bridges to the outside (organization, stakeholders, etc.)
How can a company avoid the duplication challenge? I think that the solution to this problem is by defining clear limits. Defining the tasks in which there is an advantage for teamwork, and the tasks in which it is better to be performed by one individual. Analyzing, brainstorming and interviewing are examples where teamwork should be preferred, even if it may seem to create duplications. Implementation, technical operations and documentation are examples in which teamwork may be unnecessary, and even a waste of time and money.
One last point, before ending this post. I started with individualism. Individualism has many benefits, and it must not be spared in the name of teamwork. Combining both, teamwork with place for the individual and his or her uniqueness, is a key to success. As Michael Jordan said: "talent wins games, teamwork and intelligence win championship".