Is Teamwork Driven by Nature or Nurture?

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Some say the First Law of Nature is self-preservation. If that is the case, then teamwork runs counter to nature. But, of course, that depends on your societal, familial, or organizational culture. While Western culture might be more geared towards an individual-focus, Eastern cultures are more apt to think about things from the perspective of the team. This debate led me to consider whether teamwork was driven by nature or nurture. For some clues, I looked to my 8-year old son.

My son’s perspective of presents surprises me. When he was in kindergarten, I asked him what he wanted for the holidays and he answered “nothing.”  It was really quite amazing to hear a 5-year old not ask for a gift. When I asked why he didn’t want a gift, my son answered, “I have everything I need.”

I thought, “quite mature for a small tot!”

Knowing this seemed to be my son’s nature, I shouldn’t have been surprised by his reaction to his recent birthday gift. But, I still was. For his 8th birthday, one of his friends gave my son a gift card to GameStop. My son had only been to GameStop once, but was excited to take a look at their Wii offering. However, rather than using the gift card to buy himself a Wii game, my son gave the GameStop gift card to his brother.

When I asked why he gave the gift card to his brother, my son answered that his younger brother, “Was really, really looking forward to buying a game that he wanted.” My son continued, “If your sister really wanted something, I know you’d help her. So, I helped my brother.”

I was taken aback by my son’s selflessness. In thinking about his nature, I began musing how the world could use more people like him. Especially, when it comes to collaboration, teamwork, and creativity. Part of being able to collaborate, to work in a team, and to promote creativity requires selflessness. In other words, you need to understand that the world/situation/issue at hand doesn’t revolve around you.

While some may be born with an innate ability for collaboration and teamwork, it can also be a learned skill. Here are Ten Qualities of an Effective Team Player from the Dummies Series.

  1. Demonstrates reliability
  2. Communicates constructively
  3. Listens actively
  4. Functions as an active participant
  5. Shares openly and willingly
  6. Cooperates and pitches in to help
  7. Exhibits flexibility
  8. Shows commitment to the team
  9. Works as a problem solver
  10. Treats others in a respectful and supportive manner

The next time you’re in a situation that requires teamwork, but are feeling discouraged, as yourself why you’re feeling that way. Chances are you might be putting yourself first.

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