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"Humankind has not woven the web of life.  We are but one thread within it.  Whatwever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.  All things are bound together.  All things connect."

                            - Chief Seattle

Rooted in our core values of People, Partnership and Purpose this article will explore ideas and concepts relating to the inter-workings of teams and how teams manage to accomplish teamwork.


PEOPLE:  What is a team?


Years ago, during some exciting curriculum development period, I crafted an explanation of what a team was to me. Since the instructional work was geared towards high school students, I realized that the definition would have to be succinct, to the point, and illustrated with a clear example. The definition I developed was as follows: a team consists of a collection of people who share one thing in common.


For example, people in an elevator.  If all goes well, and the elevator arrives uneventfully at the appointed destination, the doors open and a collection of contented people continues on their way. However, given a different set of circumstances, the possibility of a whole new outcome is apparent. If on the other hand, there's a malfunction and the elevator becomes stuck between floors; at the realization of the elevator breakdown, the collection of people are transformed into a group. As each person examined both their company and surroundings, they now share "one thing" in common. People are the ultimate common denominator on which a team is formed.


PARTNERSHIP:  What is teamwork?


As the events in the elevator scenarios brought people together, a complex web of intra-personal and intra-personal dynamics has meshed and connected before any concerted group effort can be organized and/or achieved. Through verbal and non-verbal cues, collaboration, intrinsic motivation, role definition, and trust, the result of this collective effort is usually known as teamwork.  Arising from the partnership of individuals working together, relations are the motivating forces for change.


PURPOSE:  What is synergy?


"I can't, you can't, but we can!" that clever axiom sums up what the government sociologist and psychologist discovered following a World War II study of small groups: the sum is greater than its parts. In short, 3 + 3 = 7. The formula for how the team solved their elevator problem. In my experience, once a team is able to focus its attention on a shared goal or objective, the resources brought to bear are usually enough to do the job.


The key to a cooperative interaction among groups lies in the maintenance of a delicate equilibrium between group and individual goals, or in other words, the group is not more important than the individual and the individual is not more important than the group. A team operating at its maximum edge of its ability achieves a stasis between its purpose and itself.


In the elevator scenario described above, although the team didn't have to make their escape through the ceiling trap door and scamper up the gable as you've seen in the movies - remember the time was not 1945; these are modern times. A 911 phone call brings a quick rescue, but had it gone the other way, I like to think they would've also gotten out.


There is so much more to be said on this topic. Specifically, what is team building? How do all these groups elements fit together, and where is the leadership in the whole array? Well, that will just have to wait for our next installment... What Is Team Building?


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