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A study done in 2010 revealed that, in most occasions, the outcome on a given task can be improved when two people have helped each other instead of working on their own. There’s really nothing special about this finding: as early as 1624 John Donne has already popularised the phrase ‘No man is an island. And this is especially true, be it in the workplace, in doing scientific research, or working in events. One of the benefits of cooperation is that people can pool together their skills and creativity towards a common aim. Because of this, they have a higher chance of being more successful.
Now, let’s put together the five benefits we can gain out of teamwork and collaboration:
1. It fosters peer learning and self-improvement
Working within a team helps us to create an environment which inspires collective knowledge, resources and skills. Consequently, this allows us to pick some ideas and to reflect on our own way of thinking. Teamwork also encourages self-improvement – a key skill to acquire regardless of the nature of our role within an organisation because it helps us to expand our horizons and make better use of our own intrinsic capabilities. And since self-improvement helps us in seeking better ways to perform our role within a team, it improves both the efficiency and productivity of the team as a whole.
2. Teamwork promotes diversity
The very nature of teamwork requires a group of people from varying backgrounds to come together and share their experiences. As a result, this kind of environment nurtures diverse opinions, approaches and problem-solving techniques. This level of diversity generates cultural understanding, increased communication through collective knowledge of approaches and a larger resource of ideas. Conversely, when an organisation has a scarcity of teamwork or collaboration, thinking may stagnate, jeopardising solutions and ideas.
3. Delegation of task becomes easy
If you’re a team leader, one obvious reason to be in favour of teamwork is that it allows you to convene a team of individuals who each have unique skills to help you with the project. A task can be delegated based on a person’s skills and expertise. For example, you may assign one person to do research, another to take charge of social media marketing, and another to look after presentation. Teamwork allows you to get the most of each person’s attributes.
4. Teamwork encourages healthy competition
When you assemble a group of goal-oriented people, they somehow see each other as a rival. A healthy balance of friendly rivalry within the team won’t do much harm, and could even benefit not just the organisation itself but even the team members. The value of this kind of competition has been elegantly explored by the British economist Stephen Nickell, who argues that people can learn powerful lessons in an environment that promotes competition since this encourages engagement, mastery of a task and a desire to achieve your best. He also went on to say that competition is linked with productivity.
5. Increased creativity and innovation
The seeds of creativity and innovation spring from the exchange of ideas that come from people of different backgrounds. For instance, tackling about climate change by researchers who come from different disciplines could potentially lead to ground-breaking researches. In the academic world, researchers have essentially migrated from the era of ‘traditional’ research in which one researcher pursued a theme over several decades. Instead, academia is fostering a fresh research culture, whereby academic works advance through the creation of interdisciplinary research.
Needless to say, with the benefits that an organisation could gain from teamwork, they also come with potential problems. For one, you should not expect a multidisciplinary team to gel straight away, and if you are the team leader you have to consider whether to reward (or punish) individuals or the entire group. But, arguably, the benefits of teamwork and collaboration could easily outweigh those drawbacks. And of course, in considering the benefits, a good place to start is with the end in mind: how will it help your organisation position itself for growth.
Dennis Relojo-Howell is the world’s first blog psychologist and founder of Psychreg. He writes for the American Psychological Association and for other online publications.
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