A 2010 study revealed that, on most occasions, the outcome of 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 had already popularised the phrase ‘No man is an island’. And this is true, be it in the workplace, doing scientific research, or working on events. We know for a fact that when people pool together their skills and creativity towards the same aim, they are much more likely to be successful.
Now, let’s put together the five benefits we can gain from teamwork and collaboration:
- Peer learning and self-improvement
- Teamwork promotes diversity
- Delegation of tasks becomes easy
- Teamwork encourages healthy competition
- Teamwork and collaboration produce increased creativity and innovation
Working within a team helps us to create an environment which inspires collective knowledge, resources and skills. Consequently, this allows us to reflect on our own way of thinking. Teamwork also encourages self-improvement, which helps us to expand our horizons and make better use of our own intrinsic capabilities. And since self-improvement helps us find better ways of performing our role within a team, it improves both the efficiency and productivity of the team as a whole.
I work within an online team consisting of five people (one of whom is based in Germany, another in Australia and the rest are in the UK) and this makes me realise that the very nature of teamwork requires a group of people from varying backgrounds to come together and share their experiences. This kind of environment nurtures a diversity of 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. Without teamwork or collaboration, thinking may stagnate, jeopardising solutions and ideas.
A healthy dose of friendly rivalry within the team won’t do much harm
Teamwork means the most can be made of each person's attributes. However, when you assemble a group of goal-oriented people, they sometimes see one another as rivals. A healthy dose 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 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.
Of course, teamwork can bring complications. For one, a multidisciplinary team may not gel straight away. The pros of teamwork and collaboration in general easily outweigh any drawbacks. When considering the potential benefits to your organisation, a good place to start is with the end in mind: how could teamwork and collaboration help your organisation grow.