Concept blog team work

Teamwork it is

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2 min

What is teamwork? Who gets to be part of the team? Or while we're at it, what is a team anyway? These days the creative industry has been so saturated with meaningless corporate buzzwords that it's easy to get confused.

But teamwork isn't just that exercise they make you do at company weekend retreats. It's a fundamental human trait which, when properly harnessed, can transform productivity. The ability to pool talent and collaborate on complex tasks is one of mankind's most fascinating attributes. Through effective communication, leaders have been able to coordinate the skills of individual contributors in pursuit of a common vision. That's literally what civilization is built on!

IBM's rigid top-down departmentalisation has been pretty much supplanted by more horizontal collaboration structures in the creative industry. Rather than breaking down and assigning tasks to employees, managers need to expect feedback from teammates. Unlike a corporate sub-unit, a team's structure is, by design, much more spontaneous.

In the first pilot episode of the hit HBO series Silicon Valley, Hooli CEO Gavin Belson makes observes that his programming teams seem to "trade guys until they all have the right group". Now, Gavin may have been commenting on the physical attributes of 'bro-grammer' archetypes, creative teams basically form in the same way. Creatives tend to organically congregate around colleagues whose strengths and weaknesses complement their own. The result is pretty well-balanced team-building.

But that doesn't mean that perfect teams just spontaneously exist in nature. Creative teams need teething room. By collaborating on complex projects over long stretches of time, team members will get to know their peers. They will learn how to appeal to strength or prop up each-others' weaknesses. 

Combining a group of people with narrow specialities into a team should, in theory, create an effective unit. However, it's not always that easy. While a team's designer might be the best in the business, armed with the latest innovations and follow the most fashionable design trends, they may have no idea how to convey their vision to a developer. That's the flip-side of the coin of managing teams of hyper specialised professionals. 

Of course, in the hands of a competent leader, that's not always a bad thing. Team members don't need to think along the same lines, share similar work ethics or even understand each-others' specialities in order to collaborate effectively. In fact, it might be better if they don't. As Aristotle pointed out 2400 years ago, Humans are social animals. We don't send kids to public elementary schools for the educational value, right? Study after study have demonstrated that children grow from the social interaction they get at school. Collaboration, problem solving, conflict mediation and competition are all skills learned in the playground. So if you think your SMM manager is acting like an entitled child, GOOD! That means they're doing their job.

The most spectacular achievements in History have been born out of collaboration between people who, despite having little in common, rallied around a common vision. Now, a good leader just makes sure that vision is born before the client comes to the meeting.



Anginé Pramzian

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