As noted in a previous blog post, the dominant view amongst scholars is that team trust is beneficial for team performance. Trust helps team members to suspend their uncertainty and vulnerability in relation to teammates and allows them to work more effectively and efficiently, using their energy and resources in ways that contribute to team performance.
There’s something divine about trust. Many of us have felt this in different ways – and words such as peaceful, safe, warm, powerful, reliable, generous, capable, caring all come to mind.
‘Teamwork makes the dream work!’ So the saying goes, and somehow we intuit the underlying wisdom. But how do we support teams to collaborate effectively? And how do we do this when team members have diverse knowledge and skills that need to be coordinated for effective collective action?
Group living is common across many species, and group sizes range from small (e.g., the Elephant herd and Lion pride) to very large (e.g., bird flocks or fish schools). Different species evolved varying group sizes under different environmental conditions but, one way or another, group living evolved because of its many benefits – a critical one being that the offspring of group members stand a better chance at survival due to the collective behavior of the group.
For anyone watching the second series of Big Little Lies starring Meryl Streep and Reese Witherspoon, amongst others, you will recall a scene in the third episode where an attentive group of children at Otter Bay Elementary School is sitting at the feet of their teacher on a typically beautiful sunny day, discussing the novel Charlotte’s web.
There are many ways of thinking about human intelligence. The humorous quip you might hear on the street is that academics have generated so many ways of thinking about intelligence that the concept is now completely unintelligible. Still, talk of intelligence has not yet gone out of fashion. I recall sitting opposite a famous Scottish psychologist in an Edinburgh café, asking the question, How would you define intelligence? He answered succinctly with a smile: Intelligence is the ability to figure things out. His definition was as much an invitation to explore as anything else.
Sabotage in the workplace is not something we think about every day, and it might seem strange to think about sabotage behaviours playing out in academic work settings. Sabotage has been described as any form of behaviour that is intentionally designed to negatively affect service (Harris and Ogbonna, 2002 p. 166). Worryingly, 85% of service employees consider sabotage to be an ‘everyday occurrence’ in their organisations (Harris and Ogbonna, 2002). When researchers investigate employee performance in academia, they tend to focus on research performance (Edgar and Geare, 2011), or the relationship between research performance and teaching quality (Cadez et al., 2017). They rarely think about sabotage.
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To understand ways in which collective intelligence can evolve to support the survival, adaptation, and flourishing of Homo sapiens, it helps to think across different timescales of analysis—and the broadest timescale of analysis we have identified here is the period within which living systems have been evolving, circa 3.5 billion years.
If our aim is to understand ways in which collective intelligence might evolve to support the survival, adaptation, and flourishing of Homo sapiens in the Holocene, we need to consider the fullness of the world we live in, and the wonderful complexity of our living system.
It’s true, individuals do possess the power to inspire the formation of teams, and teams can push the limits of systems thinking and coordinated systems action.