Where to Put the ‘I’ in Team

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It's one of the most irritating motivational truisms out there — and now we can prove it wrong. The next time an officious manager tells you that there's no "I" in team, fire back with this new research from the University of East Anglia. Teamwork is key to a group's success, for sure, but your teammates are probably also looking out for No. 1.


The new study looks at the difference between collective and personal success; "This is our project" versus "This is my project." When study participants focused on just themselves and their own outcomes, project creativity dropped. However, teams that looked out for both themselves and for the collective produced better outcomes. As co-author Kerrie Unsworth put it, "There has to be an 'us' as well as an 'I' in a successful team."

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This is also useful information for micromanagers and slackers alike, including one-time high performers who have, for whatever reason, burned out. "Human nature to possess can be a powerful motivation to enhance employee engagement and creativity," said lead author Ieva Martinaityte. "Without team members experiencing collective ownership, there is a risk that team performance will be lost."


Other studies have shown the importance of managing a team's emotional intelligence and soft skills. Teams that are invested in each other also tend to be more efficient. In short, when you're working together on something, don't leave anything on the table. The more of yourself you give, the better off the end result for all.