Why Does Teamwork Work?

September 17, 2018 · Print This Article

I’ve just come from one of those meetings. The ‘blue sky thinking’ meeting where multiple minds really are better than one.

But why are many brains going toe-to-toe, more creative? And why shouldn’t our thought process just be a monologue with ourselves – after all, this would be more efficient?

In a society that prizes individualism so highly, there is something in the ancient proverb that says: “Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety.”[1]

This wisdom has something to do with what is going on in our brain. Our brain is very efficient at making obvious associations and those associations becoming reinforced – they simply become the tracks we think along. Ideas we think about regularly become ideas we think about in one way, leading to a kind of fixation. But there is something interesting that happens to our brain when we are in a group sharing ideas.

Neurologist Paul Howard-Jones, explained in a recent Radio 4 series on the topic of inspiration[2], that the part of the brain that activates these obvious associations is suppressed more easily when we are working with other people. So the ideas that we tend to become fixed on when working in a group, don’t become our default position, but new, novel thoughts and ideas have a chance to break into our thinking.

Teamwork makes you more creative.

And as for the safety of counsel, it is always a good idea to give others a shot at your ideas – they almost certainly will be better ideas in the end. Plus, if the idea doesn’t work out, you can share the blame!


[1] The Bible, Proverbs 11:14 (KJV)

[2] https://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/play/p06jbt7p

[Photo by Icons8 team on Unsplash]

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