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Mind-bending Concepts—Teams

The Mind-bender Concepts Series
The "team" concept is ubiquitous in the mind-benders literature. Covey uses it, de Bono uses it, and it pervades all of business and education today.

Is there anyone who does not believe this idea and does not repeat it themselves? It sounds so good. If we all just work as a team, well then, everything will be just fine.

The "teamwork" concept is meant to replace the legitimate concept of cooperation. People frequently cooperate in various enterprises, because it is in each cooperating individual's interest to do so, and each sees the advantage they gain by participating in that cooperation. No rational person would "cooperate" in an activity that caused him to loose (time, money, or anything else), without any gain or advantage. An individual only joins in cooperation with others when they have some purpose of their own that cooperation fulfills.

With the team concept, individual purpose is replaced with the purpose of the team. It is frequently put over as something benefiting all the members of the team with such slogans as, "we all win when the team wins," or other meaningless bromides. In fact however, it is assumed that every individual's purposes must be subordinated to the team's purposes, and the word "sacrifice" is frequently used in other slogans, such as, "we all have to make sacrifices for the sake of the team."

The team concept is a form of collectivism and its purpose is actually anti-individualism. Notice that members of a team are replaceable. In fact every single member of a team may be replaced and it will still be considered the same team, because the members, individual human beings and their purposes, do not matter to a team.

Both individual responsibility and individual merit are obscured by the team concept. One will receive neither credit or reward for their individual effort or achievement, and those who do not achieve will be rewarded equally with those who do as members of the team. Even if a team, "fails," no individual is held responsible for the failure, but all will bear it, even if only one individual's failure is the reason for the team's failure.

There is an odd metaphor frequently employed to motivate "teamwork:" which is a self-contradiction, "a team is like a chain, it is only as strong as its weakest link," which is intended to inspire members of a team to be sure they are not the weakest link. No one seems to notice the insulting implication that one's value is determined by their role as a link in a chain, and that their purpose is the chain's, not their own. In reality, no enterprise depends on any one individual, and the team concept contradicts the "weakest link" platitude, because every "link" in a team can be replaced by any faceless individual.

—(05/13/11)