Key to Successful Team Building

Luís Nunes Amaral at Northwestern University and his team have discovered one of the keys to building a successful team, according to a New Scientist story. After analysing the production teams responsible for Broadway musicals between 1877 and 1990, and scientific research teams from 1955 to 2004, they found that successful teams have mix of new and experienced collaborators:

The found they could predict success largely looking at just two parameters – the likelihood of a newcomer being in the team, and the likelihood of a collaboration being repeated. “We were very surprised because it worked. We were able to reproduce what was going on very nicely,” Amaral told New Scientist.

The researchers rated the success of scientific teams by examining the impact of the journals they published their work in, spanning ecology, astronomy, social psychology and economics.

“The teams publishing in good journals were built in a different way,” he says. Research teams publishing in lower impact journals tended to repeat collaborations again and again. The most successful teams did work with the same colleagues too, but only 75% of the time, he says.

One more reason it makes sense to hire co-op students.

When I worked at TI, we kept a small army of co-op students on staff every term. At one point, nearly half the engineering staff was students. Besides being cheap labour, they always brought a lot of fresh ideas with them. It made for a very energetic and fun workplace. I wondered at the time if it made the team more productive. I suspected it did, but it’s nice to see some research to back it up.