Wouldn’t it be great if the Democrats and Republicans in Washington, D.C., could work together as well as the various athletes on the San Francisco Giants? When the Giants won the World Series earlier this week, it was a classic example of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. Every player contributed to the team’s overall performance and the result was a victory that few sports pundits predicted at the beginning of the baseball season. Teamwork won out over the glorification of individual players and prima donnas.
I love it when a sports concept pops up in everyday life, and teamwork and collaboration have been doing just that lately. In his post-election press conference on Wednesday, President Obama spoke extensively about the need for elected officials to join efforts across the aisle. And at the 2010 Long Island Technology Summit that I attended last week, Dr. Tony Wagner, the keynote speaker, listed collaboration as one of the seven survival skills students need for careers, college, and citizenship. Wagner, founder and co-director of the Change Leadership Group at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, is the author of The Global Achievement Gap: Why Even Our Best Schools Don’t Teach the New Survival Skills Our Children Need—and What We Can Do About It. He believes that the consumer-driven economy of the 20th century has given way to an innovation-based economy, and our education system has to change to produce people who can compete in this new world. Besides collaboration, the skills he sees as being essential are critical thinking and problem solving; agility and adaptability; initiative and entrepreneurialism; effective oral and written communication; accessing and analyzing information; and curiosity and imagination.
In other words, it’s not facts and information that should be at the heart of learning in the new millennium. While it’s useful to have total recall of factual information, those who don’t can access facts easily at any time on any computer or smart phone. It’s knowing how to formulate a search and knowing what to do with information that is crucial. And the ability to work together, to share skills and ideas and conclusions, is the key to success. Anyone who’s ever written a book or worked on a magazine has experienced that. No matter how brilliant a writer is, she needs an equally brilliant editor and graphic designer, as well as numerous other folks, to bring a work to publication. When I write a book, I also do the photo research, but no matter how hard I try to picture the interplay of my words and the images I provide, my book’s designer always surprises me with a different—and better—way of presenting the material. Much as I hate to admit it, I just don’t have the “designer gene.” But I definitely can appreciate good design when I see it.
Teamwork is as crucial in the publishing world as it is in sports. Besides encouraging collaboration with people who have complementary skills sets, it allows us to share both the pressure and the payoff. Just like the San Francisco Giants. And the New Orleans Saints. And the Seattle Storm, 2010 champions of the WNBA.
How does teamwork enable you to succeed at your job?