In all manner of situations from personal to professional, working as a team is often the path to success. That’s why it’s common practice for students, particularly those pursuing a business degree, to work on group projects in school as preparation for the professional situations they’re almost sure to encounter.
Because a team approach can pose its share of challenges, it’s important to know how to harness the opportunity of teamwork while minimizing the potential pitfalls of collaboration. After all, being a team player is integral to achieving success down the line.
1. Shared experience and knowledge
Much like teaming up for a class project, workplace partnerships join people with different but complementary sets of skills and knowledge relevant to the task at hand. When that skill-set and knowledge base is good, it’s to everyone’s advantage. For one thing, the pool of knowledge makes it easier to tackle tough tasks. It also helps when you’re less informed than a fellow partner about a specific aspect of a project. In short, expanding your know-how is never a bad thing – in school or out.
Group settings are an excellent opportunity to spark ideas. The more people involved, the greater the chance for creativity – especially since you’re no longer limited to your own ideas. Odds are, you may even uncover a new or more effective way to tackle a project, one you never would have thought of on your own.
It’s not just about you: others’ success is riding on you. The reverse is also true. Working in a group, be it the classroom or office, links you to everyone’s successes and failures. If someone isn’t holding up their end of the bargain, chances are they’ll be called out. Having someone to answer to helps ensure group-mates pull their own weight for a greater good.
4. Division of labor
Simply put, sharing the workload lowers the level of personal responsibility. If you zero in on individuals’ strengths and expertise, it frees each person to do what they do best at full capacity – and without distraction.
5. Getting it right
Let’s face it: mistakes happen. However, the more eyes that are on something, the less likely it is that errors will occur. Working in a group – professionally or otherwise – means you don’t have to go it alone and someone has your back. It also means a system of checks and balances is in place.
Working by oneself is isolating. Working well with others is a different thing entirely. In a group setting, it’s easier to be bold, think big and take risk, especially when teammates are encouraging and inspiring. When momentum builds in a group setting, it has the potential to increase productivity and, in turn, cultivate a supportive environment in which creative thinking and problem solving thrive.
7. Being a Leader
Every group needs a leader, regardless of the skill level or dedication to the project of each individual. Working in a group setting can give you the opportunity to step up and shine, allowing you to gain important leadership experience and potentially helping you gain recognition from whomever you’re reporting to on a project, be it a professor or a boss.
Jennifer Olvera is a Chicago-based freelance writer.
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