The science of team science

By Narayani Mukerji, BSc, physiology undergraduate at University College Dublin and participant in the Institute for Public Health Summer Research Program

“Why do some people gel, and some people clash? How do some people have more influence in groups than others? Why are some teams better than others?” Intriguing questions that many of us have wondered about in our spare time – at least I have!

Teamwork is essential in healthcare.

Andrew Knight, PhD, MS, MA and assistant professor at Olin Business School, gave us an insight into his work with his introduction to research perspectives on teamwork. He said “teams in healthcare have been around since the dawn of time” which explained why this seminar was essential for us; we are student interns working in various healthcare fields.

He initiated a desert survival team building exercise scenario. For this he handed us each a list of 15 items that we were left with while stranded in a desert. We were required to rank them in order of most importance to least importance first individually, then in teams of four. The idea of this was to demonstrate to us the variation between individual and teamwork. I found that indeed, there was an improvement with the team in comparison to my individual work.

“The promise of teams” is that people with diverse perspectives and expertise can tackle highly complex problems more than one person could, according to Dr. Knight. This is because team members each have a different expertise which is important to acknowledge. Additionally, members should share their knowledge and delegate roles to those with the relevant skill.

To conclude, Dr. Knight left us with this thought provoking proverb, “birds of a feather indeed flock together” which goes to show that teams form due to the necessity for individuals to work together in a similar field, and that this is always beneficial.