The Paradoxical Benefits of Juggling Teams

executive-jugglingServing on multiple teams can distract our focus, but it might be worth it.

Creative work is teamwork. That much is all but indisputable for modern organizations. The age of the lonely artist working in solitude is all but gone, if it ever existed in the first place. As we push to solve bigger and bigger challenges, we seem to inevitably need more and more people to solve them. Even our school systems are being reworked to emphasize working as a team. When it comes to organizational life, however, few people even find themselves a member of one team. Sure there’s your department, but there’s also the cross-functional team, the special task force, and the party planning committee. Many have found that serving as members of multiple teams at the same time is their new organizational reality. This presents a challenge for both team members and leaders: how do we allocate time to all those teams and how do leaders find the right people from the right team?

Fortunately, some recent research might offer insights for team leaders. In a study published in the Journal of Organizational Behavior, professors Jonathan Cummings and Martine Haas studied the inner workings of teams at a large, multination corporation (the company remains anonymous in order to ensure accurate responses from participants). The company’s employees answered a battery of survey questions around individual characteristics, team behaviors, and time allocation. The professors then connected that data to the company’s team performance measures.

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David Burkus

David Burkus

David Burkus is the author of The Myths of Creativity: The Truth About How Innovative Companies and People Generate Great Ideas. For free resources from David, check out

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