I was watching a film and someone spoke the immortal phrase “there is no I in team”. Obviously there is no I when the word is spelt out but is there any room for an I in a team? I found myself wondering and as I listened to more and more people spout this phrase, considered the ramifications of having no I but only a Borg like whole.
So if a team operated with no individuals but a collective voice what would be the upshot? Are there times when a team needs individuals? I guess these are my two main questions.
In Star Trek (Next Generation and Voyager) the Borg are a race of robotic assimilated cyber organisms that enforce assimilation into the team of Borgs or the collective as they are known. They are drones and are one of the greatest threats to civilisation because there is no arguing with them as they drive forward in their pursuit of perfection into an emotionless, unified and mechanical workforce which is controlled by technology. Even their homes are cubes, there are no curves or innovations in their space craft.
Drones do exist who resist the collective and survive assimilation. Seven of Nine when removed from the collective is frightened and furious. She wants to be part of the whole and misses the certainty and voice of the collective team. Eventually she comes to recognise her more human side and her unique qualities but at first she is scared and angry.
Interestingly the Borg never run anywhere so most species can outrun them; they are slow and ploddy and can only think in certain ways. There is no room for individuality and definitely no I. Being part of the collective means that they can use group consciousness to adapt and defend themselves and the mental energy of the whole can be used to heal.
It is an interesting idea that a team with no individuals will eventually become a collective all operating and proceeding with one aim, one vision and one mission. I worry that in some organisations that is exactly what managers wish to achieve. Yet is that what is necessary in healthcare and how will the millennial generation embrace this idea?
In a team with individuals who all think differently, having different ideas, challenging each other and creating space for diverse concepts and ideologies there is much more chance for something novel and innovative to happen. Of course there is also more chance for discord and lack of harmony.
Creating teams which are high performing, self motivated and self governed means allowing individuality to flourish within them. Collaboration is still essential for a high performing team where the views and needs of individuals are considered and each person is allowed the space to grow and develop. This can, in turn mean that the team is flexible and agile thinking able to create new opportunities for the organisation. In a start up this is an essential team attribute.
Allowing teams to function as a self-directed unit and manage their own decisions and performance enables individuals to act in the same adult way that they do in their lives outside work. It also means that work can be directed towards a whole process rather than simply reducing things to the smallest steps. A team which is a collection of interdependent and supportive individuals will see things differently and there is also less scope for error. It means that decisions are taken closer to the patient by the people who know what is going on.
De Bonos thinking hats are of considerable value in any team, the ability to look at things from different view points and consider all angles. In a team with no I this wouldn’t happen and there would be no dissenting voice to protect everyone from mistakes or make them refine ideas in order to improve them.
The journey from a Borg mentality to one of genuine diversity and individuality in teams is sometimes an onerous one. It can sound simple but is far more difficult in practice. Teams should not only work together but learn together and be supported in putting that learning to good use. They also need to learn how to hold each other to account and understand each others jobs and roles as well as being adept at setting goals.
Of course everyone needs a common view of what the aims and objectives are for a company and a shared desire for success in any enterprise but personally I would rather work with a collection of individuals than drones.
First published on http://alirichards15.blogspot.co.uk