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Are teams more effective than individuals? 7 unexpected benefits of working together
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Are teams more effective than individuals? 7 unexpected benefits of working together

Discover how teamwork helps improve the quality of your projects and output—and how you can encourage effective collaboration.

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As the saying goes, two heads are better than one. That’s because strong, creative teamwork always offers more potential than working alone or in silos. No matter how great their original idea is, team members who prefer working alone are limiting their horizons and potential. It’s up to leaders to show people how they can be more effective if they work together—and create the conditions for them to do that. 

In this piece, you'll learn why teams are more effective than individuals, especially for project work. You’ll also understand how to encourage effective collaboration and how collaboration tools like Switchboard can make teamwork the best part of work. 

Break down silos and foster teamwork. 
Switchboard's collaborative digital workspace brings your people, projects, and tools together. 
Learn more

Are teams more effective than individuals? 

While the saying “too many cooks spoil the broth” might be true for simple tasks, there are also dangers to staying in your lane. If tasks are complex, long-running, or require different skill sets, individuals probably need support and can benefit from more people getting involved. 

You should also take into account:

  • Team dynamics: Teams that communicate well and trust each other are more effective at achieving goals. In fact, employees that feel included and communicate often are nearly five times more productive than those that don’t. 
  • Team collaboration tools: Your people need to be equipped for teamwork—both in terms of their skills and the technology they use to work together. Virtual workspace software like Switchboard lets you bring your team, tools, and files together in one place, so it's easy to find who and what you're looking for. 
Screenshot of Switchboard room with open browsers and web apps
Switchboard brings everything you need for your project in one place. Source: Switchboard

7 reasons teams are more effective than individuals for project work

But why are teams more effective for project work than individuals? As we’ll explore below, there are a few reasons why teams are generally more effective than individuals when it comes to taking on work projects.

These include the ability to “yes and” each other’s ideas, hold each other accountable, and the positive impact teamwork can have on morale.

Let’s take a deeper look at seven reasons projects turn out better when your people work together. 

1. Teamwork is more efficient and productive

As a team leader, it's important to understand the complexity of the project at hand so you can determine the best way to tackle it. If it's a complex or very large, it might be better to get more people working on it at the same time. 

When teams are clear on their roles and responsibilities, there’s more room for teamwork and less room for duplicated work or silos. In fact, a Wharton study found that, when tasks are more complex, teams work as quickly and efficiently as the fastest, most efficient individual worker.

Duncan Watts, lead scientist in the Wharton study, says: “Teams for a complex task could do almost as well as the very best individual, but they were able to do it much quicker. That’s because they were much faster, they generated more solutions, they generated faster solutions, and they explored the space of possibilities more broadly.”

Complex problem-solving, creativity and ideation, and work on cross-functional projects can all benefit from a diverse range of points of view, skills, and experience. By understanding which tasks benefit the most from teamwork, you can improve productivity and foster a more efficient workforce. 

2. You can “yes and” each other’s ideas 

"Yes, and…" is a concept commonly used in improv theater, but it can also be applied to project teams to encourage collaboration and creativity. 

For example, let's say a team of marketers wants to develop a new advertising campaign for a product. One team member suggests a bold idea to create a series of humorous commercials that showcase the product's unique features.

Instead of dismissing or criticizing the idea, the other team members "yes, and…" the suggestion, proactively building on it by adding their own ideas. For example, getting influencers to star in the ads, creating a social media hashtag and challenge, and coming up with a catchy jingle or tagline. 

Working off each other's contributions can lead to a more innovative and engaging end product or campaign. 

3. Everyone has different skills and experiences to bring to the table 

Diverse experiences lead to better decision-making and problem solving. Collectively, a team has more personal and professional experiences that will inform ideas and decision-making. That's why teams can outperform individuals. 

Decision-making, creativity, and problem solving are also improved by having more diverse opinions and experiences in the mix. This also results in better products that serve the needs of a broader customer base. For example, if your app is designed by white men, it’s less likely to answer the specific needs of women or people of color. 

While people with different skills might not be able to complete a whole project on their own, they can contribute their specialized knowledge and improve the quality of overall project output. 

4. You’re accountable to each other

When working in a team, individuals are accountable not only to themselves but also to their team members, leading to a greater sense of responsibility, motivation, and ownership. And when you're part of a team that holds itself accountable, you're more likely to hold everyone to the same standards and set similar goals, which helps keep people engaged. 

Also, everyone on the project shares the risks, which means there’s a lesser chance of burnout because everyone's sharing the load and feels supported. This means you get happier employees who show up ready to do their best work. 

5. There are more learning experiences

When you're on a team, you can learn from each other's skills, and mistakes. Additionally, the interactive and dynamic nature of teamwork itself creates a more enriching learning environment compared to individual work.

For example, when facing challenges in a team setting, your team get to apply their knowledge to practical situations and learn on the job. This increases their adaptability and encourages them to trust each other to succeed together.

Being on a team also means you have more opportunities to offer constructive feedback to one another. This can help team members identify areas for improvement and growth, leading to continuous learning.

6. Good teamwork can boost morale 

Strong leaders measure team performance not only with metrics but also by how motivated and satisfied their people are. When your employees feel like their ideas are valued by their team and their efforts are contributing to the team's success, it can enhance overall satisfaction and positively impact performance. 

Working in a team can provide a support system and motivation for individuals to achieve their goals. This helps create the positive feedback loop of a company culture people want to be a part of, which further boosts morale.

Pro tip: Use Switchboard to take employee morale to the next level: Hop into spontaneous 1:1 chats with your colleagues, or set up a dedicated room for your favorite team-building games. Switchboard makes every interaction multiplayer, so staying engaged and connected to your team is easy.
Screenshot of a virtual escape room game in a Switchboard room
Switchboard's persistent rooms let you share and store anything from project files to virtual escape room games—which makes for great team building and better teamwork. Source: Switchboard

7. You can be more adaptable and flexible

Working in a team helps employees become more adaptable and flexible. This is because collaboration often requires adjusting to different work and communication styles, accommodating diverse perspectives, and finding common ground, which enhances overall adaptability. 

This also benefits the company as you’re better placed to react to changes in the market. Also, the more experience you have working with different types of people, the better equipped you are to navigate diverse work environments and collaborate effectively on teams with individuals from different backgrounds and skill sets. 

When you're more flexible and adaptable, you’re also more likely to get good at practicing communication, empathy, and problem-solving skills, which make for stronger, more productive working relationships. 

6 ways to encourage effective team collaboration 

Now that you know why teams are more effective than individuals for project work, let's take a look at how to encourage teamwork so you hit goals faster.  

  1. Get stakeholder and team buy-in
  • Involve stakeholders and team members early in the decision-making process to gain their input and buy-in.
  • Clearly communicate the goals and benefits of the collaboration to inspire enthusiasm and commitment.
  • Address any concerns or objections from stakeholders and team members, and work towards finding common ground.
  1. Establish psychological safety, trust, and empathy
  • Encourage open communication and create a safe space for team members to express their ideas and concerns without fear of judgment.
  • Promote empathy by actively listening to others, understanding their perspectives, and showing genuine care and consideration.
  1. Strong shared values
  • Define and communicate the team's core values that emphasize collaboration, respect, and shared goals.
  • Make sure team members align with these values during the hiring and onboarding process.
  • Recognize and celebrate individuals who live the team's values and contribute positively to teamwork.
  1. Lead by example
  • Demonstrate collaborative behavior by actively participating in team discussions and projects and owning your work and mistakes. 
  • Model clear, effective communication, active listening, and a willingness to consider different viewpoints.
  1. Eliminate silos
  • Promote cross-functional interactions and team-building activities to break down barriers between team members. 
  • Encourage knowledge sharing and collaboration across teams through workshops, meetings, or collaboration tools.
  1. Use the right tools 
  • Set your team up for success with the right tools for collaboration. For example, Switchboard lets you organize information by project and get more done both synchronously in coworking sessions and asynchronously outside of them.
Pro tip: When you use Switchboard for project meetings, you can open different multiplayer apps and browsers side-by-side and work as a team without sharing your screens. You can also add your project management tool, meeting recordings, and action items directly into your Switchboard room, so it's easy to track team progress. Plus, the persistent rooms save your work, so you're always working and communicating in context. 
A screenshot of a Switchboard room with documents open and named cursors.
Switchboard lets you make persistent rooms for projects so the entire team can work together more efficiently. Source: Switchboard

More than the sum of its parts: The importance of teamwork for success

When people do everything by themselves, no matter how great their ideas are, they can limit their own potential and miss out on the benefits and opportunities of teamwork. For example, improved morale, access to more learning experiences, increased productivity, and a more flexible and adaptable approach to working. 

Ultimately, working in a team can lead to better outcomes. This is because collaborative decision-making helps you spot and mitigate risks, identify potential roadblocks, and arrive at more informed and balanced decisions—and better products and solutions. 

As a leader, you need to show your people how teamwork can be more effective and create an environment where everyone can work together. When you use Switchboard for collaboration, you get features like persistent rooms and the ability to work together side-by-side or async for legendary results. 

Break down silos and foster teamwork. 
Switchboard's collaborative digital workspace brings your people, projects, and tools together. 
Learn more

Frequently asked questions about whether teams are more effective than individuals 

How does teamwork affect an individual's performance?

Teamwork affects an individual's performance by improving the quality of their work on complex projects, increasing productivity, and boosting team morale. This leads to a happier, more adaptable employee and a better team overall. 

What are the advantages of working in a team?

There are many advantages to working in a team. For example: 

  • Teamwork is more efficient and productive 
  • You can build on each other's ideas 
  • Everyone has different skills and experiences to bring to the table
  • You're accountable to each other
  • There are more learning experiences
  • Good teamwork can boost morale
  • You get more adaptable and flexible

Does more people in a team make it better?

Having more people in a team doesn't necessarily make it better. Depending on team goals like work-life balance, team development, and well-being, as well as organizational behavior, the number of people on your team will vary. You need the right amount of people to work efficiently and effectively and achieve your goals. It’s also important to think about how to avoid silos and disconnection as your team grows. 

Stop, collaborate, and listen

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Break down silos and foster teamwork.

Switchboard's collaborative digital workspace brings your people, projects, and tools together.