Let’s just not build teams

Robert Brook writes an impassioned post about his distaste for artificial games and the overuse of competition as a motivator. I’ll write more on that later, but I wanted to pick up on one thing that Robert says at the bottom of his post:

Lindsay Marshall, of Bifurcated Rivets fame – I’m a long-time reader – reminds me of another grim manifestation: team building. Real teams come together organically, or emerge – they are rarely, if ever, built. That false application and bonhomie is dreadfully thin stuff, especially in comparison to emergent groups.

This reminds me of a story a friend of mine once told me about how he was chastised by his boss for not being a ‘team player’ because he didn’t join in office conversations about football.

Team building is not about creating groupthink. The kind of mutual respect and understanding that underpins the best teams is something that can’t be forced.

So here’s a thought: How about we use social media to build internal communities from which teams emerge spontaneously? How about providing people with the means and opportunity to get to know each other, understand each others’ skills and ways of working, and then let teams coalesce around projects? Turn Google’s 20% Time on its head: Instead of giving staff one day a week to work on whatever project they want, give them four days to work on projects that they get to choose from a list of things that the business needs doing (which they also get to contribute to), and one day where everyone has to do unavoidable unpopular tasks. If you share the good, you have to share the bad, after all!

What kind of company might that create? I would hazard a guess that it would be highly creative, innovative, productive and successful. It would be a company that retained its best staff because they are happier there than they could ever be in a traditional management structure. And if you only have one day to do chores, then the needless administrivia that gets created out of nowhere and which serves no purpose other than to feed the bureaucracy will just die off.

Who’s going to give it a go, then?

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