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Pushing Teamwork Kills Individuality

Updated on May 8, 2012
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The modern glorification of "teamwork" in school and at the work place has reached epidemic proportions. In school students are oftentimes forced to work together with other students to figure out a problem, and at work employees are subjugated to the wonderful world of "team building" exercises which leave a bitter taste in many mouths of students and workers.

Not everyone likes to work in teams, and many people work better individually. Team work is not something you can learn from a motivational/televangelist telling you how supposedly great or important it is. Just as there are athletes who take part in team sports, and those who take part in individual sports, people are also different.

I remember in school I always hated being forced to work in groups. These group work projects never ended up being a smoothly functioning brain storming exercise where everybody could put in their two cents and so on. There was always one or two kids who took over the leadership role with some of their friends supported, whilst the rest of the kids just sat silently, even if they knew the answer or could have helped more. Working in teams can be intimidating and not at all productive. Why not let kids work on their own and then get together into teams of their own choosing if they need to or want to. This is what happens in the real world as well. Real deep thinking and problem solving cannot be done in groups. Thinking is a very individualized and personal action which works best without the pressure of trying to conform to a group mentality.

Work place team work can also be annoying. Just because some supposed Human Resources "professionals" came up with team building exercises doesn't mean they are worth anything in practice. Forcing people who don't like each other in the first place to repel down a mountain side or go white water rafting will not be enough to break tensions. Sure, it might be fun for a little while and while you are in the moment of playing these games, but usually when people get back to they everyday hum-drum of the office they will still feel the same way about each other as they did before.

Philosophers, mathematicians, musicians, poets, businessmen, actors etc. all developed as individuals with their own ideas and plans. Sure, they usually end up working with others in their work, but a team is only as strong as the sum of the individuals who are a part of it. You can group together a bunch of idiots and say they are better now because they are part of a team. Add five zeros together and the total will still be zero.

We are constantly berated with calls to "unite", and act like a team, and join together, and be one family, or join together as a community etc. etc., but we are never told to be individuals. A herd mentality is not a good thing. People all need to make their own choices based on their own ideas which are all based on individual experiences. We always here of the loners who end up becoming mass murderers or perverts, but the value of the individual is never glorified in the American media. It's easier to just pretend like you believe and support what the supposed majority thinks and propagates. True, many people are lazy and prefer to just go along with the "team." many like being a part of a group because their own personal responsibility lessens. If you do something as part of a team then you cannot really be said to be acting as an individual, at least that's what many people think. In reality, once that individual does do something not in keeping with the groups ideals, they are shunned and reviled as having broken the groups "ideals". Many times acts of supposed lunatics come from an extreme version of reestablishing their own identities.

We need not take extreme or dramatic measures to establish our individuality. For example, just because you have a mohawk and green hair doesn't make you different, you are just conforming to a subcultures norms, which again makes you a part of a team. Real individuality is in own minds and what we truly think and feel about the world and everything in it. We shouldn't be afraid to refuse to work in groups when we feel we can do something better on our own. We don't need to go along with what society and the media tells us is great.

One mundane example of this is when local news anchors show an obviously fake enthusiasm for their local sports team during a newscast. They wouldn't be allowed to be apathetic or God-forbid not give a damn about their local sports, because that would supposedly show a lack of local pride. Why is local pride so important anyway? That is just another form of herd mentality: I must support whatever is local, because it is good. And what if you hate where you live and you actually say it?: people get offended, because you are going against what everyone else supposedly feels, but which in itself is a lie. Why can't we just accept that some people care about the local sports teams, and some people couldn't care less? We are individuals with individual interests, goals, thoughts, prejudices etc. If everyone just accepted this we would be better off, and schools and work places would stop trying to force people into mindless teams. People inherently know when they need others to accomplish something and when they don't, and that's how it should be left.

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