5.  Can you provide evidence of the synergistic effect of teamwork?


Have you ever experienced the Human Synergistic effect in your group work? I have begun writing a book on Human Synergistics.  I have found no empirical data or resources on the subject of Human Synergistics.  My definition of Human Synergistics:  The dynamic effect of individuals acting on an unconscious level in a cooperative effort toward a greater whole; thus producing a result greater  than the sum produced by the same individuals acting atomistically. Joe (Arizona)


Bodwell’s Answer:


I'm not surprised that you've found no empirical evidence to support the effect of synergism in teams.  Teams are made up of people and with the resulting unique chemistry of each it would be impossible to create a scientific controlled study.  I think the closest one could come would be examining before and after performance of the same group of people.  First, examine their collective performance as individual performers.  Then examine their collective performance after they are put together as a team.  In the first case it would be clearest if individuals are competing with one another for individual rewards.  Here they would not willingly share important information or learnings they acquire.  Some would do well others would not.  The successful ones would get more successful.  Those least successful would get discouraged and give up or just march in place.  There are plenty of instances where these conditions exist today and have existed in the past. 


Now take these same groups of people; give them a common goal, shared rewards, and the ability to communicate with one another, and collectively they will blow the doors off their earlier self-serving  performance.


I've documented two cases on this website:


Productivity Services, and Performance Improvement Team


Why is this so?  Probably a combination of reasons:


  • Human beings are social animals.  For the most part we like to work together with others.  When we like what we are working on we tend to put more energy into it.
  • All human progress is incremental.  We get an idea or see what another person is doing and we try to improve on it.  When the team incentives are present, we let everyone know about our improvement.
  • Working collectively makes it easier to share difficult work, build energy, strengthen commitment to success and share risk...leading to enhanced performance.

Additional lines of inquiry would include:


B. F. Skinner's work early work with Emery Air Freight

Edgar Schien's writings on Organizational Theory


In my experience the Europeans and Asians are much more attuned to teamwork than Americans.  Our historical and current culture glorifies the single combat warrior:  Bruce Willis saves the world (yet  again?).  John Wayne...Audie Murphy... Mark McGuire.  The list stretches over the horizon.  Almost alone, culturally speaking, we always feel surprised when a team succeeds at something important.