Virtual team anthropology
What virtual teams must learn from cavemen
(What is Anthropology)
In a Harvard Management Update of March 2001, Virtual Teams: Palaeolithic Insights About the Art of Cyber-Managing, (Downloadable for $4 as an e-book from Amazon) the authors propose a delicious irony about today’s modern virtual teams.
To be successful we need to remember long-forgotten deep knowledge of our ancestors from the stone age!
Three instincts in particular have to be excavated from our caveman days and brought back into our organizational teams:
- Purpose shapes function and structure
“Purpose is the campfire around which virtual team members gather.”
- Leadership rotates according to the task at hand
Palaeolithic societies pooled their human capital simply to survive.
- Constant communication fosters a sense of identity
Sometimes the technology makes it too easy for a new team member to find-out all the important team information without the need to invest in the human conversations to acquire it. What we gain in information efficiency we can more than lose in missed opportunity for trust building.
Without a good sense of purpose, mission and goals you may have a group but not a team.
The single leader model of teams will not meet the challenges of a modern high-pressure virtual team - distributed leadership is key.
So as we strive to make our team more effective by learning from natures best team's we should also try to examine and rekindle what our distant ancestors knew, but which modern society has forgotten, about what makes teams work.