Cheering Against the Team

If I hear one more screed about the benefit of working in a team environment…

This represents the last in our series of analyses centering on the Arthur W. Page Society publication, “The CEO View: The Impact of Communications on Corporate Character in a 24×7 Digital World.” It involves a touchy subject for many.

The Fortune 50 CEOs interviewed for the study thought it necessary that their communications staff work well in teams. In fact, according to the report, this is best done in “ever-shifting teams.”

Perhaps the scariest aspect of the Page Society’s report is the conclusion that “Lone wolves need not apply” for top communications jobs.

One CEO is quoted as saying, “We work on a team approach for everything, so the CCO [chief communications officer] is always working with someone else, or a team, to understand what the situation is and how to approach it. He’s not in a room by himself figuring it out; he’s getting lots of inputs and aggregating them.”

Glad I don’t work there. There are many among us (yes, me included) who work better in that room figuring it out. It’s not that we don’t consult and collaborate with colleagues. It’s just that we are not at our best under a forced, willy-nilly regimen that shoves everyone into cubicles and orders them to pretend they like working together 24/7.

Do these otherwise bright executives realize that they are shutting out gifted introverts? Hey, there’s some serious talent in that group. How about Steve Jobs, Abraham Lincoln, and Eleanor Roosevelt? And let us not omit Albert Einstein, quoted as saying, “The monotony and solitude of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind.”

Susan Cain, author of QUIET: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, also makes the case powerfully. As she writes, “Solitude is a catalyst for innovation.”

If you are a communicator who tends toward solitude, what methods have you perfected that allow you to work effectively? And how do you shut out all that annoying, sometimes inane chatter?




  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Ray. Glad you find the ideas here of some value.

    Few in the U.S. realize that, according to figures cited by Susan Cain, one-third to one-half of all Americans qualify as introverts. It’s odd, therefore, that society seems to often shove them (okay, us) into a corner in favor of this forced “team” concept. The intense collaboration evidenced in teams certainly has its place (reacting quickly and effectively in a crisis situation, for example). But to set a default switch to working in teams is just plain dumb from a business point of view as it shuts out — or at least minimizes — contributions from one-third to one-half of the workforce.

  2. One of the things I love about your blog, Ed, is that you dont shy away from controversial positions. Perhaps a contrarian nature goes hand in hand with confident gifted introversion.

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