Teamwork can be described as the process of working collaboratively with a group of people in order to achieve a goal. It involves subordinating personal prominence to the efficiency of the whole. Over 2,00,000 years of evolution, mankind has survived the ice-age, famines, and plenty of other adverse conditions to reach the evolved state of civilization we are in now. We survived the worst of times because we worked together and supported each other. The basic ground for survival was to ‘be together or perish’. We may say that mankind is more evolved because human cognitive abilities are much higher than that present in the animal kingdom. However, there are certain species of fauna that display traits which we can learn from when it comes to working as a team. So, let’s take a look at teamwork lessons we can learn from the animal world.
Teamwork lesson #1: Trust from Meerkats
Remember Timon from the famous Disney movie, Lion King – well, he is one! Meerkats live in the harsh and dangerous conditions of Africa. They have adopted a very smart survival strategy which is based on mutual trust. One member is assigned the job of the guard while the mob feeds. As soon as they spot any danger, they alert the whole clan which then has enough time to run for safety. The amount of trust the mob places in each other is massive; one slip of alerting the mob can be the difference between life and death but they still do it with a high rate of success.
Similarly, trust in each other is the most basic requirement in a team. You cannot grow or achieve as much individually until you trust your team and work together. Indeed one of the most important teamwork lessons, no?
Teamwork lesson #2: Communication from Wolves
Wolves have a highly evolved social structure with roles defined for each member of the pack. They utilize every channel of communication at their disposal – right from their bone-chilling howl to minuscule eye movements. Researchers say that wolves pay close attention to all types of communication. Their power of observation is honed so finely that they record even the most subtle changes in each other’s behaviour.
This is the kind of approach that works wonders in teams as well – understand each other well and communicate so effectively that the scope of miscommunication becomes less whenever there is a task at hand.
Teamwork lesson #3: Coordination from Killer Whales
Killer Whales are the most dangerous predators that roam the seas. They understand the power of collaboration and coordination to increase their success rate in finding preys. They hunt down whales much bigger in size than them as easily as they pick up the unsuspecting seal on an iceberg. In fact, they are the only species to have perfected the art of picking up prey from the beach without getting beached.
One of the other teamwork lessons hence is of the importance of coordinated effort. It play a major role in completing any task, simple or complex. Irrespective of who gets more recognition for the same task, what matters is the bigger picture of completing a task. That is eventually going to add value to your organization.
Teamwork lesson #4: Conflict resolution from Chimpanzees
Chimpanzees who have been in conflict with each other on a previous occasion are likely to be to be near each other in a conflict against another. This close proximity allows the exchange of grooming, hugs, and kisses, which serves to diffuse the chances of future conflict. After fights, the chimp who comes off worse in a conflict is the one who initiates reconciliation.
Since teams are composed of people with different personalities, there are always chances of conflict occurring over differences. We must remember that conflict does not only affect the people involved in the argument but also the entire team, thereby creating negativity. It is essential to understand the importance of resolving conflicts and maintaining amiability.
Teamwork lesson #5: Empathy from Elephants
Elephants are one of the most intelligent animals and are very social too. They have an innate ability to remember and act empathetically towards other herd members. If any member of the herd is injured or sick, the others will try to pick them up with their trunk. If a member is dead, the rest of the herd mourn for the one gone.
When you empathize with your team members and understand their joys and sorrows, you tend to create bonds which are very important for the team to perform better. Making an effort towards going that extra mile always reaps benefits at some point or the other.
To conclude, it doesn’t matter where you are or what you do, you are always going to work with others to make things happen. No task can be accomplished without teamwork. In fact, a good way to learn how to do so is to observe the traits offered by nature itself. Observe, learn and implement.
What other teamwork lessons do you think can be learned from the kingdom of the wild? Would love to know of some.
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” ~ African Proverb
This article was first published in Entrepreneur.