Teams: An Important Foothold In Evolution

I’ve been thinking a lot about the discussion we had in class about the difference between groups and teams. I believe that a team is a subclass of group. In class we outlined the difference between teams and groups; I think that it is important to distinguish a second subclass of group, a body of people that acts very similarly to a team, something I like to refer to as a “functional group”. In many cases, functional groups are somewhat of enigmas; they often lack all of the positive characteristics that describe a team but produce identical and sometimes better productivity and quality results. Usually the only noticeable difference between a team and a functional group is the intangible and unspoken sense of “self” that binds and orients its members. It is not possible to have a functional group without the satisfactory accomplishment of a goal or task; a functional group that fails to achieve their goal is not functional, it is just a group.

After our class discussion about groups and teams, I applied what I learned to what I already knew about functional groups, and the thought came to me that teams, though necessary tools and learning instruments, are analogous to training wheels, in the evolutionary sense, on the long bike ride that is maturity. Throughout my study of the theories of evolution and natural selection, the notion of “survival of the fittest” has been a foundation for most explanations to the questions of how and why the world works as it does. The success of species, traits, even genes, has been dependent on relative superiority over similar individuals.

When considered hierarchically, the aggregation of experiences of being a member of a team is an important step in individual advancement, followed by the aggregation of experiences of being a member of a functional group. In terms of survival of the fittest, teams, at first glance, seem anti-progressive, allowing free-riders, opportunities for complacency, and a decrease in net individual progress; however, as noted in class groups serve as opportunities to learn the difficult skills of creating a purpose that is greater than that of the job at hand, finding more ownership in work, expecting greater learning and personal fulfillment, and self-advocacy. These skills are essential for the survival of individuals yet are difficult to acquire as individuals. Essentially, teams facilitate the acquisition and exposure of individuals to these skills, in an effort to teach them and enhance their abilities. As individuals begin to retain these skills over time, they find themselves starting to form or act out roles that are characteristic of functional groups, when placed in situations one normally expects to find teams. When this is the case, the sense of “self”, or spirit, normally present in team members is absent in these individuals and they often appear stubborn or uncooperative in team-building exercises and situations. It is important to keep in mind, however, that members of a functional group or individuals who act with the functional group mindset are aware of and understand the inner-workings, dynamics, pros, cons, benefits, and downsides to teamwork and team membership; a team is merely a stepping stone of understanding in the development of a human.


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I think what you are saying is very fascinating. I completely agree with you when you said "teams, at first glance, seem anti-progressive", because groups do allow for exploitation. In nature groups form in order to provide protection for individuals, this means that the weakest member of the group is often protected by the strongest. In group situations this can still be the case. The "free-rider" can be assisted by the stronger workers and seemingly the group may be less productive. What I don’t understand is why you say that a team is a stepping stone. Are you trying to say that once someone has mastered being a member of a team, then they will only participate in a functional group? Does this also mean that you cannot learn teamwork from a functional group instead of a traditional team?

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