Amy Edmonson’s TED talk on building remote teams

Amy Edmonson’s TED talk on building remote teams

I came across Amy Edmondson’s talk ‘How To Turn A Group of Strangers Into A Team’ today and whilst it was filmed in 2010, it is still so relevant today to our new-found reality of building remote teams during Covid.

Edmonson talks about the idea ‘teaming’ – that’s teamwork on the fly. It’s coordinating and collaborating with people across boundaries of all kinds – expertise, distance, time zone, you name it – to get work done.

She says: “Think of your favorite sports team, because this is different. Sports teams work together: that magic, those game-saving plays. Now, sports teams win because they practice. But you can only practice if you have the same members over time. And so you can think of teaming … Sports teams embody the definition of a team, the formal definition. It’s a stable, bounded, reasonably small group of people who are interdependent in achieving a shared outcome. 

You can think of teaming as a kind of pickup game in the park, in contrast to the formal, well-practiced team. Now, which one is going to win in a playoff? The answer is obvious. So why do I study teaming? It’s because it’s the way more and more of us have to work today. With 24/7 global fast-paced operations, crazy shifting schedules and ever-narrower expertise, more and more of us have to work with different people all the time to get our work done. 

We don’t have the luxury of stable teams. 

Now, when you can have that luxury, by all means do it. But increasingly for a lot of the work we do today, we don’t have that option.”

Edmonson uses the example of the Chilean mining disaster and how people came together from many different areas to rescue the miners, which seemed impossible – ideas came from André Sougarret, the mining engineer who was appointed by the government to lead the rescue, from NASA, Chilean Special Forces and volunteers all over the world.

So her rallying cry is: “How quickly can you find the unique talents, skills and hopes of your neighbour, and how quickly, in turn, can you convey what you bring? Because for us to team up to build the future we know we can create that none of us can do alone, that’s the mindset we need.”

Abraham Lincoln said once, “I don’t like that man very much. I must get to know him better.”  Surely this extraordinary attitude is what we need in our lives right now.

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