By Stephen M. Fiore
How can we better understand how to improve team effectiveness, as well as help society more broadly? In the last decade, there has been a great deal of growth of interdisciplinary research on teams, thanks to organizations like the Interdisciplinary Network for Group Research and the developing field of the Science of Team Science.
The study of teams has long been making important contributions to business organizations, the military, and healthcare and is now branching out to scientific research teams, cyber security teams, and even spaceflight teams. Each of these domains is of significant societal relevance for the 21st century. They represent important topics for what is called use-inspired basic science. This is research that is on a quest for fundamental understanding, but also has a consideration for eventual applications.
Non-human team members
What does it mean for groups and teams when humans are not the only members of a team? Advances in cognitive computing and artificial intelligence are maturing. Fundamentally, this will alter group dynamics and processes within teams where an intelligent technology is a genuine team member. With the increased prevalence of artificial intelligence, society must deal with this shift where technology is transitioning from tool to teammate.
New ways of thinking about teams
Concepts and methods from fields with ‘design’ at their core (eg., architecture, product development) can be adapted to improve team process. This includes, for example, helping represent complex problems with collaborative modeling, or helping scientists think differently about how to develop theories.
Another increasingly influential development is adoption of systems thinking and pursuit of approaches for understanding complex societal or organizational issues. These include non-linear relationships and inhibitory and/or augmenting feedback loops with variable delays between cause and effect.
This is a broad label that encompasses attempts to improve the way we do science through reproducibility and replication, as well as by creating new mechanisms for data sharing, and by changing the way we do peer review and the way we publish. Open Science has, at its core, needs that represent the very topics that team research has long studied, including research on how groups negotiate and make decisions as well as how we coordinate and collaborate in complex endeavors.
Improving team effectiveness in society
In the US, scholars have played an active role in helping to develop the “Science of Team Science” through work with the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health and with policy organizations such as the National Academies of Science. This recently culminated in the publication of a National Research Council report, ‘Enhancing the Effectiveness of Team Science‘. As an indication of the demand society has for such knowledge, this was one of the most sought after reports published by National Academies Press in 2015.
These are examples of the many exciting developments for the effectiveness of teams and for the betterment of society. How have you improved team effectiveness? What trends do you see on the horizon?
Fiore, S. M. (2016). Groups and Teams Research: The Next 10 Years. INGRoup Newsletter, Spring/Summer, 6, 1: 1 (4 and 7)
URL: http://www.ingroup.net/documents/newsletters/INGRoupNewsletterWinterSpring2016.pdf (PDF 905KB)
Biography: Dr. Stephen M. Fiore, is Director, Cognitive Sciences Laboratory, and faculty with the University of Central Florida’s Cognitive Sciences Program in the Department of Philosophy and Institute for Simulation & Training. He is President of the Interdisciplinary Network for Group Research and a founding Program Committee member for the annual Science of Team Science Conference. His primary area of research is the interdisciplinary study of complex collaborative cognition and the understanding of how humans interact socially and with technology.