Are "Teams" a meaningful unit of learning? LO13603

Scott Simmerman (
Wed, 14 May 1997 12:27:11 -0400

Replying to LO13576 --

Len Tischler wrote about teams learning more complex tasks better and
individuals doing simpler ones more effectively. I've not seen any
research on this, but I did get to read Jessica Lipnack and Jeffrey Stamps
brand new book, Virtual Teams, last night.

One thing seems clear, we are definately taking more and more advantage of
electronic communications technologies and techniques to work together and
that teams are more and more important as so many organizational issues
become more and more difficult.

Most of my experience with Len's question comes from the play of our team
building simulation, The Search for The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine. I'll
use yesterday's game of 300 people for a high technology company (data
switching virtual teams, mostly engineers).

In the game, we form teams of 6 people and share suggested roles to get
organized. There were 50 tables, each with resources and information.
Before we get started and after the introduction and explanation, I am
asked questions that can be answered by another member of the group. It
seems like assigning tasks helps individuals sort information more

- If I am the Supply Expert, I tend to pay more (selective?) attention to
information about the resources such as cost, number and use.

- If I am the Analyst and have a job aid that tracks Weather, I would pay
more attention to information about weather patterns and consumption of
resources influenced by the weather.

It is always the case that no one has all the information but they all do.
At the same time, one may "reinvent" information, become an expert at the
table, and get something wrong. In the game yesterday, and for the first
time I recall it happening, one of the teams changed the rules regarding
TurboChargers and even influenced one of the assisting / support people to
change the rules. Interesting.

And there is NO WAY that any group much larger than 6 could operate
effeciently and effectively. A Big Group or committee finds the
decision-making too difficult.

And we see the same team-based effectiveness with Square Wheels. One
individual may come up with a few responses to the cartoon (and it's
sometimes a struggle for a few). But, put together a small group (5 or 6)
and allow them to discuss the illustration and you can get dozens of ideas
and themes. And they have more fun in the process.

My guess is that Len is right. Individuals can understand simple things
better and make decisions on those things more effectively. But groups,
with their diverse knowledge, information and experience, are more
effective in creative situations as well as complex ones -- IF they are
allowed the time to talk, listen and plan.

But typically, it seems organizations form teams and then pressure them to
"Get On With It!" This is a Ready - Fire - Aim approach that contrasts
with my belief:

"Don't Just Do It! Stand There."

We need to provide information, time and support to allow teams to get
perspective and have a bit of objectivity so that they can develop and
implement better solutions,

For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman Performance Management Company 3 Old Oak Drive, Taylors, SC 29687 (USA) 864-292-8700 fax 292-6222

visit The Lost Dutchman at

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