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Team Results USA’s CEO John Kolm is an innovator of 21st century team productivity programs, a best-selling author, and a former intelligence officer. Originally from Australia, John formed Team Results in 1996 with retired business partner and decorated veteran Peter Ring as the end result of an experiment that began... Read more

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Holding Hands and Singing Kumbaya

11

We’ve all been there. The team trainer says “Together Everyone Achieves More”, or “There’s no ‘I’ in Team”. Eyes roll, people sigh, everyone settles in and looks at their cellphones.

Why do we feel this way? Is it just the mundane, hackneyed, clichéd aphorisms that turn us off? Is the trainer right that this is, in fact, the way we should really work in teams? If so, why doesn’t it feel that way? Are we wrong? Is there something wrong with our work team?

Actually, the trainers are wrong, and your instincts are dead right.

Modern studies of team EEG brain signals done by our company, partnered with UCLA, have shown that the famed “kumbaya” state for a work team – that “everyone-has-the-same-high-engagement-and-focus-and-we-all-work-as-one” state – is very rare, even in healthy teams. Nuclear submarine command teams we worked with, some of the best-trained and best-operating teams in the history of the world, are in that “kumbaya” or “Collegiate” state less than five percent of the time.

These results were announced in a paper at a major conference last June, and they change everything we thought we knew about work teams. That sense most of us have that our team is a bit chaotic, that people dip in and out with their attention, that individuals still matter and that the team is hardly ever in that kumbaya, nirvana-like state is absolutely right. It turns out that we don’t have to worry when we see that kind of behavior in our work team. The consultants are wrong.

It’s only very recently that it has been possible to look directly at the “team brain” and to see what’s really going on. The intellectual giants of yesteryear – Freud, Jung, Maslow, Tuckman – were brilliant people, but they didn’t have the technology we have now. Being able to look directly at the “team brain”, rather than just making guesses from behavior, is like the difference between being able to look under the hood of a car and trying to figure out what’s wrong just by listening to the engine noise.

The new science is called “Team Neurodynamics”, and it’s going to change everything about training and teams. The American Psychiatric Association has already decided that neurodynamics will be the future of all psychological diagnosis, and has announced this in the DSM-5 – the master reference for diagnosis of human thought, feeling and action.

Those old-style team trainers are headed for the same place as yesterday’s snake oil salesmen. Stay tuned for a new generation of team and leadership development that is based on facts and real science.

Oh, and there’s no need to sing “kumbaya”, either.

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John Kolm

About John Kolm

Team Results USA’s CEO John Kolm is an innovator of 21st century team productivity programs, a best-selling author, and a former intelligence officer.

Originally from Australia, John formed Team Results in 1996 with retired business partner and decorated veteran Peter Ring as the end result of an experiment that began in 1993. Driven by frustration with the team development options then available to business and government, and with encouragement from early clients, they applied their academic training and practical leadership experience to build the unique approach to team productivity improvement that eventually became Team Results. The company grew rapidly, expanded to a wholly US-owned branch in the United States in 2005, and now operates as a very successful business in both hemispheres.

In 2004 John and Peter wrote the global bestseller “Crocodile Charlie and the Holy Grail” (Penguin, available on Amazon.com), consolidating ten years of work with peak clients into a compelling story about team productivity, leadership in business and government, and happiness at work. The book has been re-published in seven languages and fourteen countries, and a sequel is in the works. John is also the author of numerous articles and papers on team dynamics in the modern workplace, some of which can be found in the News Room at www.teamresultsusa.com .

John is qualified in Psychology from the University of Melbourne, and in mathematics and statistics from the U.S. National Cryptologic School, where he also taught on the faculty. Email him at John.kolm@teamresultsusa.com .

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