Trigger Questions

Did you team up with your opposite?

Trigger Question #134 — reading: about 1.8 minutes

“Well, gentlemen, once again we are as one!”

. . .

Let’s begin with a nursery rhyme, this one from the mid-16th century, if not earlier:

Jack Sprat could eat no fat,

His wife could eat no lean.

And so between them both, you see,

They licked the platter clean.

There is a glut of advice, opinion, and the-seven-steps on teamwork. These are often conflicting, even as they aim to making teamwork “better”, whatever that means. And yet, many teamwork boffins often conveniently discount a critical element of effective teamwork. When they don’t openly pooh-pooh it, that is. (Conveniently? I will explain.)

On the factory floor, it is called opposites. In the executive suite, it is called diversity.

And yet, way back in the 16th century, if not much earlier, people knew that opposites on teams matter. Hence the celebration of what Jack Sprat and his wife could achieve “between them both,” namely easier dish washing.

What’s happened to us since then? When did we-all-sorts succumb to in-my-image? How did heterogeneity dissolve into homogeneity? Why did the devil’s advocate capitulate to groupthink?

I am tempted to blame schools and universities. If you are good at math but poor at languages, they prevent you teaming up with a kid poor in math but good in languages. You may not join forces with your “opposite” so that together (i.e. as a team) you could improve your individual grades. They demanded that you work in isolation.

In fact, diversity is actively discouraged. Why? Because uniformity is easier to manage. Especially in formal education. And, dare I say it, even in families at home. Because diversity is discomforting. Hence inconvenient.

Yet, what does the Real World expect of you? Real teamwork!

But you don’t know how. Because no one taught you how. You had no examples to follow back then and now they expect you to set the teamwork example. (Even though your boss still finds uniformity easier to manage.)

So now you take the easy way. You link up with people who look like you, speak like you, think like you, behave like you. People who are shaped like you, tinted like you, smell like you.

And you call that teamwork?

Welcome to my side of the nonsense divide.