Well done England on retaining the ashes – the first time this has been achieved on Australian soil for 24 years. Sure the applause goes to the Captain Andrew Strauss and the Manager Andy Flower, but it was and always will be about a group of people working together as a team.
In ‘Click’ by Brafman and Brafman, they reference the Florida Gators Basketball team. In their history they had never really figured highly on the collegiate basketball stage. Then by chance, four players (nicknamed the Oh-fours) were put together in one room – Corey Brewer, Taurean Green, Al Horford and Joakim Noah ate together, payed together, laughed together, and slept together. The result: they won the NCAA final two years running in 2006 and 2007. Intriguingly, they were all subsequently signed to different professional teams, but none of them had the level of success they previously had when playing together.
So what is the magic that goes on in teams that bond?
Shah and Jehn (1993) from Kellogg’s Graduate School and Wharton studied a group of people from the 1st year of an MBA class. They asked everyone to write down who they most got on well with, and then divided half the group into teams of people who got on well together and the other half were then randomly assigned. In a series of tests, unsurprisingly the team made up of those who got on well together out performed the other team. the surprise was by the sheer extent – in a very mundane task, they outperformed the other team by 20% and the more complex task by 70%. When they investigated further they found two key factors: The first was that in the team that bonded, there was more support for each other – especially important in the mundaneness of the first task- spirits were kept high. In the second, more complex task the other key factor came out – there were arguments. In the un-bonded team, no-one really wanted to upset anyone else, so the discussions were cordial, resulting in compromised decision making. In the team that bonded, the friendship allowed for real arguments on the content to take place, without it spilling over into personal attacks. Thus out of this healthy debate better decisions were made.
So in conclusion, any group who wants to perform at a high level needs to more closely bond (at an emotional level). Maybe our England football squad could learn something from cricket!