Do you know that working in a team is better than on your own? (aka The Ben Darwin rule)

Last updated by Brady Stroud [SSW] about 1 month ago.See history

Is working as a team all it is cracked up to be?

It's a well known fact that a good team of 3 people will output more than 3 people working on their own. As well as that, the team members will find it more rewarding as well.

The best sum up of this was by famous Wallaby player, Ben Darwin, who after breaking his neck in a Scrum. He was forced to quit being a Wallaby and rejoin normal society. He said:

I found the hardest issue of all was that I missed my friends, basically, and that's what I told them when I gave them the jersey for the final. I just missed the 14 guys. There's a feeling that comes in sport, particularly in team sport, where we say we feel jealous of the wages of individual sportspeople but never jealous of the lack of team. When you finish a game of football and you've played together and you walk off with the other 14 men, the guys on the bench, and you've overcome an opposition, you don't have to say anything to each other. You can simply look your fellow man or other player in the eye, and he knows you helped him, and you know how he helped you. That's enormously satisfying, and I haven't found that anywhere else in life.

We can see examples of this in nature as well. For the Antarctic Emperor Penguin, cooperation is the key to survival. Every winter thousands of male penguins huddle together to share warmth. The birds on the most exposed side of the huddle gradually move down around the huddle to the more sheltered side. This means that each bird spends some time exposed to the full force of the Antarctic winter, but then gets its fair share of warmth in the middle of the pack. These clever birds understand that by taking turns and enduring discomfort in the short term, their chances of success (survival) greatly increase.

It is essential that in order to be a contributing member of a successful team, you are willing to put the good of the team over your own interests so that everyone can benefit in the long term.

Video: Emperor penguins unite for survival in Antarctica - David Attenborough - BBC wildlife (2 min)

Note: If this beautiful story is not up your alley you will prefer a similar example of working as a team by the IT Crowd (Unavailable outside Australia).

Tip: Leverage existing organizational experience and learn from the best. Does your company have a ‘super star’ team? If so, why not ask to sit in on one of their meetings, or take a few of their team members to lunch and ask them for advice on increasing your own team’s performance.

Suggested questions to ask the experts:

  • What do you define as success?
  • What are the things that you do not worry about?
  • What practices do you believe lead to your success as a high performing team?
  • Do you have defined/document practices and procedures that you follow?
  • What tools do you use that contribute to your effectiveness?
  • What metrics do you use to measure your success?

With the rest of your team, prioritize the feedback you received and select a few key items that you can implement right away. Make a backlog from the feedback you received, set some goals and start your team on the road to being ‘Superstars’ too.

Adam Cogan
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