At work we don’t always work alone, much of the time we need to cooperate with other people to achieve shared goals. And when a team works well, it’s much more than the sum of the individuals in the team, but when it’s working badly lots of time is wasted dealing with arguments and miscommunications. The team is ineffective and people never want to work together again.
First things – first! Let’s talk about  The Expert’s Curse.
Experts can be our most powerful teachers. But often they have lost the ability to answer even simple questions accurately. What do I mean?
Suppose you have $5,000 and want to invest some money?
If you have the following options, who would you give it to?
  • A financial Astrologer
  • An experienced financial analyst
  • A 4-year-old girl
In fact, this is a real experiment conducted in 2001 by a UK Psychology Professor.
  • The Astrologer made his choice by examining the formation date of the companies.
  • The financial analyst relied on his seven years of experience.
  • The 4-year-old girl, randomly grabbed four company names from a pile of papers.
What do you think the results were?
  • In the first week, the Astrologer lost around 10% of the money.
  • The Expert lost around 7%.
  • Our 4-year-old lost only 4.6%.
Now after 1 year, this was the result:
market drop
The global market dropped to 16%. As you can see the 4-year-old was the only one who didn’t lose any money.
You might think this only applies to experts in the world of finance. However, there have been lots of cases where experts and authorities in other fields also made huge mistakes. Here are a few examples:

mistakes examples

So, how can we break the expert’s curse?
Here is an interesting example – It’s 1906, Plymouth’s Show in the U.K., a fat ox was selected, competitors bought numbered cards and they wrote down their estimates of what the ox would weigh.
Those who made the closest guess won the prize.
Later, scholars discovered that the average guess of all the entrants was remarkably close to the actual weight of the ox.
It seemed like the group, combined, had more wisdom than the individual.


So why?

Well, there are many explanations.

The one I want to focus on is about grouping people together. In other words, making use of the wisdom of a team.

Teams can provide more cognitive resources and social emotional support than individuals can.

And we do find teams becoming more and more popular in the modern workplace.


So, what makes teams effective?


Coordination and collaboration. It’s really that simple! When collaborating and coordinating their actions, teams generate better ideas, achieve more objectives, and provide greater services.
However, in reality we’ll also see many dysfunctional teams.  So the question becomes, how can we really benefit from using teams?
Let’s start with an example…
Suppose you are attending a friends birthday party. There are around 200 people in the room. Suddenly, a fire breaks out. What would you do? Most of us would try to run away.Unfortunately, there’s only one exit available. If everyone rushes for the exit together, it’s going to block up. Or in other words – by having everyone move fast, the whole group ends up moving slower.
teamwork vs fire
The flow of people getting out of the room starts to decrease when the mass gets to the door. Eventually, the number of injured people becomes bigger.
So, the conclusion is, the fastest way for everybody to get out of the room is to move slower. In some ways this is quite counter-intuitive, right?
But we find many similar examples in the real world.
For instance, on the roads, our failure to coordinate our objectives and
behaviors results in traffic jams.
On the other hand –  if we take a look at nature, we see many successful examples where a swarming crowd looks like one large entity.
Think of a flock of birds, or a huge school of salmon, moving in harmony. Sometimes the crowd can be made up of millions of individuals.
Psychologists call these kind of group a “smart swarm”.
But what’s the secret of a smart swarm?
Recent research suggests that these animals conduct adaptive assimilation.
That is, they try to adapt their own behavior based on the actions displayed by others close to them.
While the whole crowd sometimes becomes leaderless, they act like one cohesive entity. During this process, they make best use of resources individual members provide.
But can humans do this, and do it effectively? Well, for people, smart swarm behavior can be reduced down to three principles:
  • coordination
  • communication
  • copy


  • Coordination means, we put collective interest first, rather than personal benefits. It means, we develop a task structure. A schedule and a workflow to achieve our collective objectives by realizing that we are interdependent on each other.
  • We also negotiate and constantly communicate with each other to figure out what we need to pay attention to.
  • Finally, we try to learn from others and copy their success.
During this process, norms, climates, and even cultures begin to emerge. 
The group stabilizes around optimum patterns of behavior, and these patterns become part of the collective memory. In the workplace this is a process that brings about effective teamwork.
While it’s easy to say, it’s never easy to implement a smart swarm.
One of the biggest challenges is people in teams often have conflicts. (You could check “What to do when there is a conflict in the team?” from here)



Well… just pick one…



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What to do when there is a conflict in the team?

What to do when there is a conflict in the team?


What to do when there is a conflict in the team?


In reality, wherever there are teams, there are often conflicts amongst team members.
Often, due to poor communication, team members may find they have incompatible goals and become very competitive toward each other.
Other times, ambiguous rules and scarce resources make it difficult for members to coordinate their behavior.
Sometimes conflict arises because there’s an abusive leader.
Different forms of conflict can cause huge time loss in business organisations. Studies have found managers have to spend between 30% and 43% of their time 
dealing with intra-team conflicts. 
For employees, 16% of their time is spent on conflicts with supervisors. 
conflict time losses
So why do we have so many conflicts, and how can we resolve them?
To answer these questions we need to understand the nature of teamwork.
  • When we work in teams, we need to reach a consensus about what type of emotions are appropriate. 
  • We need to specify goals.
  • We need to synchronize timing and sequence.
  • We need to exchange and disseminate information.
  • And we also need to align behaviors and attitudes.
  • And we need to do all these together


But how?

Some experts say, we can ask team members to do standardized and formalized jobs.
In this case, it’s very clear what individual members have inputted. And it does reduce conflicts, however, this solution discourages the emergence of creative ideas and 
it’s less useful for teams operating in ambivalent and complex environments. So how can we avoid the inevitable conflict that arises in teamwork? 
This is where diversity plays a big role. 
A high level diversity occurs when we find out that other members are different from us. These differences can be their age, gender, educational level, values, beliefs, personal experience or career aspiration. 
However, if we can value these differences rather than neglect or disrespect them, we can coordinate teamwork better. Eventually, we can achieve better team performance and obtain more creative ideas at the same time.

Again…BUT HOW?

Managing people is never easy, but when the conflict between two or more of your direct reports escalates to the level of hatred, how do you minimize the drama and keep your team on track?  After all, remember that this is a fundamental part of your job as a manager…

If you can get to the root of your employees’ fear, you can help them rebuild their relationship. And if you do it the right way, the shared vulnerability will start to foster trust in place of hate.

Here is a possible approach to get at the root of the problem and resolve the conflict once and for all:

Before addressing the interpersonal tension between your two direct reports, it’s important to ensure the conflict isn’t stemming from more systemic issues.

  • First, ensure that your direct reports have clarity about their roles
  • A solid understanding of what is expected of them
  • A set of measures and rewards that promote collaboration rather than competition.

Or in other words – Make sure their relationship is set up for success.

Then, before you talk to them, spend a moment thinking about your own frustration with and judgments about them.

If you are fed up and unwilling or unable to be empathetic, you won’t be in a position to help. Hatred is the product of miscommunication, misunderstanding, and fear — empathy can dissolve it.

Start with the positive assumption that your direct reports are good people experiencing something stressful. Compose yourself, or risk provoking even more anxiety in the people you are trying to calm down.

When you are ready, relentlessly provide feedback whenever you see symptoms of the poor relationship.

For example you could say something like: “When Nick spoke, you rolled your eyes.  For me, that demonstrated a lack of professional maturity. What caused your reaction to what Nick was saying?”

Take every opportunity to call out bad behavior and don’t hesitate to provide feedback on the absence of behavior either, as in: “I noticed that you didn’t say anything during Nick’s presentation. What was going on for you?” In each case, ensure that your feedback ends with an open-ended question that gets the person talking.

Use the answers to your questions to uncover clues about the root causes of the conflict.


Remember, for feelings as strong as hatred to be triggered, the root causes are probably very close to home. 


By asking the right questions, Shed light on issues of:

  •  low self-esteem – “What worries you?”
  • anxiety about change – “How do you see this playing out?”
  • fear of losing control – “How do you experience it when she does that?”

Let each answer show you the path to the next question. You are attempting to get beneath the person’s biased perceptions of situations and down into their motives and beliefs. That’s where the emotion is coming from.

As you listen closely to the answers, it is critical to redirect comments that include assumptions about what the other person is thinking or feeling. For example, if he says “he is trying to destroy my credibility,” re-frame the idea as “we don’t know Nick’s motive; I am interested in how his behavior is being interpreted by you. How do you feel when he disagrees with you in front of the team?”

Reflect back what you hear and start to make some hypotheses about what might be going on. “I get the sense that when Nick was promoted two levels in three years, you started to think about your own career progression. Is that fair?” “Tell me more about what you’re thinking.”


The objective is to make sure each individual understands how their thoughts and feelings affect their perceptions of the other.


Encourage each person to consider the possibility that the other is trying to cope in the best way they know how.  Ask questions that help them think about the situation differently.  “How do you think Nick felt when he joined a team of people who are older and more experienced than him?” “How might you help Nick get his point across so that he doesn’t need to be so assertive?”

Once you have helped each individual understand his or her half of the relationship, you can bring the two together to have a conversation. “I’ve been speaking with each of you about my concerns over your strained relationship. I think you’re ready to talk to one another.” Interject as little as possible in the conversation, but where you know there is something that’s not being said, provide a gentle nudge: “Nick, we talked about how you experience it when Bob disengages in a meeting…” This process might take several conversations—stick with it.

The advantage of making this level of investment is that it will go a long way toward fixing the problem once and for all—once you can put yourself in someone else’s shoes, it’s very unlikely you will still feel a conflict.

Even more importantly, it will be some of the best leadership development the two individuals have ever received. You will have helped them grow up, gain some insight into themselves, and forge a relationship that benefits everyone. Their newfound accountability for relationships will serve them well throughout their careers



Well… just pick one…



Can you think of a person or organization, that could benefit from this? Share it with them…