Being smart is not enough

(you also fail when you give up on the team)

The complementary factor that leads to dysfunction is that the people with the wiser suggestions give up trying to persuade the others or cannot put their ideas across persuasively. The A+++ student doing a group project on a topic that is years beneath him or her is not going to learn anything new within the content material in the topic, but that does not mean there is nothing to be learned. For those with great ideas who just cannot get the teammates on board, the learning goal is all about teamwork. There is no point having good ideas if you are not persuasive, so if you are the person with the best ideas, it is perhaps time to put “get better ideas” on hold, and start learning “get more persuasion skills” at the top of your learning priority list. Look for strategies to bring the team back from the brink of dysfunction. For example, sometimes the problem is that the majority of the group just cannot visualize the significance of the suggestion. Rather than giving up on the team and just keeping out of the drama, those who know better can take extra personal initiative and develop the proposal a little further so that the other teammates can appreciate what it means to them. Those who know full well that the group contributions are poorly written and formatted can take the initiative to offer to proofread the final edition rather than taking the hit when the inevitable deductions are made. This is an example of taking one for the team, going above and beyond for the good of the team. Even if one does not get any extra marks compared with the others on the team, one gets extra marks by bringing the group mark up.

Author: Kathryn Woodcock

Dr. Kathryn Woodcock is Professor at Toronto Metropolitan University, teaching, researching, and consulting in the area of human factors engineering / ergonomics particularly applied to amusement rides and attractions (, and to broader occupational and public safety issues of performance, error, investigation and inspection, and to disability and accessibility.