Untrue Things People Believe


This is the twelvth article addressing those things most people believe that are not true introduced in the article, "Most Of What You Believe Is Not True." To see all the articles, or any other one, please see the Index.

The "team" concept is ubiquitous in business, education, politics, and most organizations. It's supposed purpose is to facilitate cooperation between individuals for the achievement of some common purpose or goal.

Is there anyone who does not believe this idea and does not repeat it themselves? It sounds so good. If we all just work together as a team, we can achieve anything.

Origin Of The Team Concept

It is difficult to precisely identify the origin of the concept "team." Perhaps the earliest use of the word was for teams of horses or oxen when they were yoked together to take advantage of their combined physical power.

Men have also been formed into teams to take advantage of their combined raw physical strength, or other physical abilities, such as a bucket brigade or cooperating in a barn raising. Such teams act together, usually under the direction of a "boss" or leader. Sports teams are another example of men working together. Their actions are more complicated than some simpler work teams, but the objective is still their combined physical action.

The military uses teams in much the same way. Military teams are highly trained and expected to perform in strict coordination. There is often talk about initiative and innovation, but in practice, a soldier who is truly innovative is usually in trouble.

Coordinated action that requires independent thinking, choices, and true innovation between individuals cannot work under the team concept. The idea of a team constrains the very abilities in individuals that thought, choice, and productive effort require.

What Is Not A Team

Individuals cooperating with one another on a project, production, or enterprise do not constitute a team, although such cooperative efforts are often referred to as teams. If that is all that was ever meant by a team the concept would be an innocuous one.

For example, if you watch the "credits" at the end of most movies you will see the names of all those who made various contributions to the production of the movie:

Cast lead (actors, actresses)
Cast supporting (actors, actresses)
Casting director
Music composer
Costume designer
Associate producers
Production designer
Director of photography
Executive producer
Assistant directors
Full cast (actors, actresses)
Stunt performers
Sound men
Wardrobe assistants
Assistant editors
Visual effects technicians
Title designer

[NOTE: This list leaves out movie credits items, like the production company, production name, movie title, caterer, camera, lens, and equipment makers, processors, location, etc. and only includes those credits identifying individuals.]

While a great deal of communication and cooperation is required for all these individuals to work together, that communication and cooperation is required by each individual so they can perform their own individual job. What makes any such project successful is each individual's competence and effort in doing their own work.

While each individual might have a personal interest in seeing the production's success, because it will increase their own reward, it is not for the sake of the success of the members of the production "team" as some kind of collective, but the success of the production itself as result to their own individual excellence. Every individual is responsible for their own work and none is responsible for the work of any others.

Whats Wrong With The Team Concept?

The primary thing wrong with the team concept is its collectiveness and anti-individualism. A team is a fictitious entity with its own purposes and ends to which the real individual people and their purposes and ends are subordinated. Teams don't do anything, only individual human beings do things. It is this fact that the team concept obfuscates.

  • Individuals in a team are not judged or rewarded on the basis of their own performance, but on what the fictitious "team" accomplishes. That usually means poorer workers are rewarded for the accomplishments of the better workers.

  • On teams, the more ambitious, competent, and creative are held back by the slower less able members of the team, because it will be insisted that "all members of the team be considered and included," no matter how lame, or pointless their, "input," or how much it slows down any real progress.

  • Teams are used as cloak for individual responsibility, any failure or poor quality work of individuals is hidden, because only the team is evaluated.

  • Team failures result in all members being penalized, which means the better workers are penalized for the failure of the poorest workers.

  • The team concept is based on two lies: the need for a leader and the pseudo-scientific concept of "synergy."

    • There is a difference between a leader (someone who others follow and would be lost without) and someone responsible for coordinating the work of several or more individuals, such as a manager. These are very different concepts. A true business manager does not manage people, he manages the work and provides the information needed by those doing the work. Managing people is what slave-owners and gang-leaders do.

    • Synergy is the false belief that three plus three can equal seven. In medicine there is a concept called synergy that means the combined action of two or more drugs is greater than the sum of each acting separately. It is this concept that is misapplied in all other areas. Biological systems are very delicate and how they behave in response to different combinations of substance is not adding reactions to each other, but totally different reactions to different combinations of substances.

      When this lie is applied to teams, it means if five idiots work together they will be five times more intelligent (productive, creative, innovative) than one idiot alone. In fact, five idiots working together will be five times more idiotic. Mental ability cannot be added up. In most cases, the larger the group, (team), the less intelligent it will be.


When two or more people choose to cooperate to produce a product or service they are not a team, they are collaborating. Collaboration is often a successful method of achieving something that is of mutual value to all the collaborators.

Collaboration is a very special kind of cooperation and requires very special people for it to be successful. Each of the collaborators must personally want to do what part of the work he chooses, and each must be confident in the other collaborators. They must have the kind of personalities that deal with others objectively and reasonably and must not have any desire to take advantage of anyone else.

Collaboration is good, and so are large projects as described above—but they are only as good as the individuals who actually do the work are good.

"Every page of history cries to us that there is but one source of progress: Individual Man in independent action." [For the New Intellectual—The Fountainhead, "The Soul Of An Individualist"]

If you're any good, avoid teams like the plague.