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Does Teamwork Really Matter?

You might ask Michael Phelps that question. The swimming superstar who has won more Olympic medals than any other Olympian in the history of the Games would unequivocally say “yes”. In fact, he would not have won his eight gold medals at the Beijing Olympics without the two relay teams he swam on (400 meter medley relay and 400 meter freestyle relay) winning their own gold medals. Despite his individual achievements because of ten hour seven days a week of individual practices, Michael cherishes the Olympic team experience. (see quote)

Research in a variety of organizational settings from Wall Street to hospital operating rooms suggests that championships endeavors are usually the result of teamwork. Captain Sully who landed Flight 1549 in the Hudson River after encountering a flock of birds that disengaged the aircraft engines, told us that he was just doing his job with his co-pilot.

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  • Look at who wins the NBA – Sports Illustrated issue that analyzes

Unlike baseball, basketball is the quintessential sport where teamwork is absolutely cited. In fact, that may be an apt analogy, because another recent study suggests – not surprisingly – that teamwork counts in basketball, too.

After analyzing 14 years of National Basketball Association results, Shawn Berman, an assistant professor of management at Santa Clara University, and two associates found that teams where players had played together longer won more games, as many as five additional wins in an 82 game NBA season. The teamwork effect held up even for bad teams; bad teams that played together a lot won more often than they should have based on other criteria.

Mr. Berman attributes the gains to what researchers call “tact knowledge, such as anticipating where a teammate will be on a fast break. But he warns that the boost from playing together diminishes over time and eventually can hurt a team suggesting that occasional influ- same percentage of salary to each employee, for example.

Teams have been in vogue as a management and organizational strategy since the 1980’s. But as the world is becoming flatter and more global, the teams that have been put in place are more complex. There are now cross-functional teams, cross-regional teams, cross-cultural teams, cross-company teams.

[Google] ICU Medical is one company that has made teamwork an inclusive part of their culture. The San Clement California


Lynda McDermott

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