Throughout time we mere mortals have had a tendency to believe that our generation was the first to realize or invent pretty much everything. Take teamwork, for example. We talk a lot today about the value of teamwork and how important it is to our personal and professional lives. We quote people like Michael Jordan who said, “There’s no ‘I’ in team, but there is in win.” But teamwork is older than language so let’s take the concept back. Way back.
Most historians agree that our earliest ancestors organized themselves into cooperative clans or tribes because their chances of survival went way up if they worked together. Teamwork. Even back then some members of the team were faster or smarter or more creative so it’s likely they learned to specialize. If you were weak or slow you could still help score dinner by making loud, annoying noises and aggressive arm movements to drive the prey towards the guy who was phenomenal with a spear. Voila. Protein with a side of vegetation provided by the gatherers. Shared by the whole team.
Combined effort, shared knowledge, and collaboration
Fast forward to the reign of the pharaoh Khufu (approximately 2,589 BC to 2,566 BC) and imagine the teamwork it took to build the Great Pyramid of Giza. To raise it, laborers moved into position six-and-a-half million tons of stone—some in blocks as large as nine tons—with nothing but wood and rope. Originally 481 feet high with sides of 760 feet at its base, it was the biggest building on the planet until the early twentieth century. It represents 20 years of high performance work by a team estimated at 100,000 workers. Probably not aliens.
Take another giant leap forward to 1660 when The Royal Society of London was formed to promote the free exchange of scientific ideas. Admittedly, this wasn’t your average bunch of Joes. Just a few of the names you might recognize include Sir Isaac Newton, architect Christopher Wren, Gottfried Leibniz (the “father” of calculus), Edmund Haley (as in the comet), and Robert Hooke, who invented the steam engine. Shared knowledge and collaboration over the course of 70 years led to the formation of several sciences—anatomy, zoology, chemistry, physics, astronomy and botany—as well as the industrial revolution, embryonic evolution theory, mechanical computation, the understanding of planetary gravity, and much, much more. Even Steve Jobs might be humbled.
A couple of themes begin to emerge
Clearly, none of these things could have been done by one person working alone and that’s not meant to imply that individuals haven’t accomplished great things. However, there’s another little thing called shared vision.
Henry Ford and his team of engineers shared the vision of an affordable automobile and focused on the cost savings gained from mass production to make it. Walt Disney and his “nine old men” revolutionized children’s films and created some of the most memorable and profitable characters in cartoon history.
In this blog series, we’re going to look at various aspects of great teamwork, which we’ll loosely define as the cooperative effort of a group of people seeking a common end. We’ll be inspired by the knowledge that the greatest civilizations have been those that encouraged cooperation and the smartest animals we know—great apes, elephants, wolves, dolphins, crows—tend to live together in cooperative groups. We’re not zoologists here at Adobe, so we’ll share what we do know about the importance of teamwork inside the company and in collaboration with some seriously creative customers using Creative Cloud for teams.
Stay tuned. It’s our goal to keep the conversation lively.