Teams are an interesting concept. On the face of it, the concept of teams makes good sense, or at least sounds nice! The idea of a group of people working together to solve a problem seems like a pleasant and effective way to work. The underlying axiom for teams is that ‘more minds are better than one’ and ‘diversity will bring about the right answer’.
On reviewing teams, both theoretically and as a practitioner I’m not so sure this is the case. Great ideas do not tend to happen in committees but are often the result of a great mind. These ideas are then evolved by other great minds, but it is not so much a team effort as a serial progression. Teams also come with inherent limitations that decrease the likelihood of ‘the best result’ occurring. These include such things as ego-protection, politicking, and the eventual compromise. In this regard, the whole process by which teams work may not be conducive to the best idea or end product resulting.
As always, there are two sides to an argument. I can clearly see where teams would be valuable. An instance is where diverse opinion must be incorporated into a final decision or where various skill sets are required. However, the idea that teams are a fundamental requirement of work (which is often the case in management speak) is not, in my opinion, true.
I have included two readings which I think are required for those who are interested in the wider concept of teams, and the benefits and limitations of teams.
Mannix, E., and Neale, M. A., (2005). What Differences Make a Difference? The Promise and Reality of Diverse Teams in Organizations. Psychological Science in the Public Interest. Vol. 6, No. 2.
The authors review team research that has been conducted over the past 10 years. They discuss the nature of work teams in context and note the substantive differences underlying different types of teams. They then review representative studies that have appeared in the past decade in the context of an enhanced input-process-outcome framework that has evolved into an inputsmediators- outcome time-sensitive approach. They note what has been learned along the way and identify fruitful directions for future research. They close with a reconsideration of the typical team research investigation and call for scholars to embrace the complexity that surrounds modern team-based organizational designs as we move forward.