There’s no “I” in teamwork?

Successful teams rely on individuals.

Ever heard the phrase, “There is no I in teamwork?” The book “The I in Team” by John J. Murphy and Michael McMillian shares a different view. There is significant research to show that the real value in teamwork is the contributions from individuals. Successful teams share the fundamental characteristics of being committed to a shared purpose, they are clear on the individual members’ roles, they have an effective process, a level of trust is present and they communicate well. When all individuals contribute to a team effort, the results should be a collaborative effort that combines and builds into an idea greater than what the sum of the individuals could produce.

Today, there is an expectation for adults and youth alike to work collaboratively. It is important to recognize that in an effort to maintain harmony and cohesiveness, individuals should not feel pressured into agreeing with a consensus idea. This phenomenon of not dissenting but agreeing with the group consensus is known as groupthink. Groupthink is not just an issue plaguing adults; it can also negatively impact groups of youth when individuals feel pressured to fit in.

You can help youth develop the confidence to voice their own opinions in a group setting by making sure everyone has an opportunity to speak and all ideas are respectfully considered. Establishing group norms is one way to remind all youth in a group that listening is as important as talking.

Working across teams and being able to effectively communicate is a critical life skill required in the workplace today. Teaching youth the importance of teamwork while maintaining their ingenuity as individuals is an important message that will insure their future success.

For more ways to share science with youth in your life, please explore the Michigan State University Extension Science and Engineering website. For more information about 4-H learning opportunities and other 4-H programs, contact your county MSU Extension office.

Michigan State University Extension and the Michigan 4-H Youth Development program help to create a community excited about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). 4-H STEM programming seeks to increase science literacy, introducing youth to the experiential learning process that helps them to build problem-solving, critical-thinking and decision-making skills. Youth who participate in 4-H STEM are better equipped with critical life skills necessary for future success. To learn more about the positive impact of Michigan 4-H youth in STEM literacy programs, read our 2015 Impact Report: “Building Science Literacy and Future STEM Professionals.”

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