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Collaboration and the individual

October 17, 2012

In “There is an I in Team”, author Mark de Rond poses an interesting challenge to the current push in business towards greater collaboration, co-working and co-creation.

The point he makes is that today’s focus is on teaming and that this has resulted in a search for people with qualities of likeability, trust and empathy – often at the expense of individual skill. Through analogies with the world of sport, the book suggests that individuals are frequently game-changers and teams can be built around them.  By seeking to suppress individuality in the interests of team harmony, managers may in fact be driving out the very success they are attempting to achieve.

“When teams work well, it is because, and not in spite, of individual differences”, de Rond correctly observes. Yet the obverse is also true, so there is clearly a balance that needs to be struck in management oversight. The concern that the book raises is that we could be misled into thinking that team harmony is an end in itself – that all we need to do is create a collaborative working environment and success will automatically follow. That is not true; we need to maintain a degree of tension and real clarity over goals and objectives. In the past, IACCM has observed that all healthy and productive relationships operate with a degree of contention. The question is whether that contention is creative or destructive.

And in another important observation, de Rond observes that ‘a settled and happy team is the result of success rather than its cause’.  All of which implies that to be successful, there is a need for clarity, rigor and effective oversight of performance, together with encouragement of individual aspiration to be distinctive and a high-achiever.

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