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Applying I/O Psychology Concepts, Part II - Teams and Teamwork

For today's topic within I/O psychology, I will discuss teams and teamwork. In this post, I will take a different approach by focusing more on the importance of teamwork in a healthy work environment. It will be focused less on concepts and more on application.

Teams, as we know, are a group of individuals working together to achieve a common goal, and is one of several levels of analysis within I/O psychology (which include, in ascending order, individuals, teams, organizations, and so on...). There are many types of teams, including, but not limited to, ad hoc and virtual teams. Teams are the building blocks of any organization, and any conflict within teams - and between teams - can have both short and long-term repercussions on the organization's culture - and the bottom line.

I took a class this past fall specific to teams, and we learned some great concepts, such as mental models, composition, training, and conflict. Ironically, we did not apply many of the concepts we learned to how we functioned as a team when we had to do group projects. Being that it was the first semester that many of us were together, we had to quickly go through the stages of team developed as proposed by Tuckman - forming, storming, norming, and performing. The coronavirus pandemic hampered this further, as we had to communicate exclusively through Zoom, email, and phone (and will have to do so for one more semester). But we pulled through.

One thing I wish I had done in my previous team efforts - at work, school, and other organizations - is to engage in team building activities. I recall going to a ropes course in 2001 when I was an orientation coordinator at my then-undergraduate university. The entire orientation team (about 25 people) went to a ziplining park in suburban Virginia and each person took a turn to zipline while the rest of the team had a specific role, which we rotated. I have a fear of heights, but I went through with the ziplining.

When the pandemic ends, I would love to get a team together and go to an escape room. Last year, I went to an escape room with some Toastmasters friends and it was an invigorating experience. We all contributed to solving puzzles, and while we did not finish within the hour allotted, it was both fun and worthwhile.

Team building is an important part of organizational development and organizations should not downplay their importance. It is a small investment that can go a long way.

I'll have much more to say about teams down the road, but I wanted to make this point as I continue my exam prep.

Be healthy!

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