How would you describe the psychology of teamwork?
The study of teamwork began with the emergence of social psychology and an interest in how groups behave, particularly as against another group. This is the idea of having an “in group” that you’re a member of and that becomes part of your social identity, and then the “out group” against which you discriminate and define yourself. It has developed into its own field of organisational psychology.
We’ve looked at how groups form against each other and what happens to an individual voice in the team. We wonder how we make a team more efficient and also what the risks are of having teams. Teams don’t always do better than individuals, but there is a Helen Keller quote I particularly like: “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” This summarises the trade-off. You can’t do a lot alone, but you are more in control. You can do less of your own thing in a bigger team, but you can achieve more.
But things can go wrong?
Yes. Power plays a big role. In health care there are two big priorities—quality and safety. When you look at incidents in teams they are usually caused by problems in the team and not with people’s clinical skills. You can attribute most of what goes wrong in medical units to dysfunction in the team.
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