People as Pack Animals

Here I go again. Thanks to my dad, I’ve now found even more of the abundant material supporting the premise that people are emotional beings who require social context for their behavior. In a recent op-ed piece in the New York Times, called “The New Humanism,”  David Brooks postulates the following:

“This body of research suggests the French enlightenment view of human nature, which emphasized individualism and reason, was wrong. The British enlightenment, which emphasized social sentiments, was more accurate about who we are. It suggests we are not divided creatures. We don’t only progress as reason dominates the passions. We also thrive as we educate our emotions.”

Further evidence (at least to me) that, while there’s tremendous value in cultivating expertise, skills, and the like, those things do not exist in isolation. People need an emotional context in which to work.

From the classics (remember Apollo and Dionysus) to the arts, this is a classic dilemma. Absent consideration of both the emotional and rational context, teams results can be hollow or fall short. Great teams form lasting bonds based on a broad range of values. Some tied to rational thought, for example expertise, skill, intellectual dialogue are important components, but so are things like trust, transparency, candor, and the intangible adrenaline rush that can come from working with people who you like, respect, and hopefully enjoy spending time with.

Examples of this are abundant. In the arts, have you ever listened to a technically impressive musician who doesn’t quite get the dynamics or expression required to hone their craft (regardless of the genre, its pretty boring just listening to someone show-off technical skills absent conveying emotion). In team sports, merely piling together a bunch of superathletes doesn’t necessarily guarantee success (take a look at this year’s Miami Heat, based on talent alone, you’d think they’d be able to walk off the court after the third quarter in most games, that’s not happening). Teams need to gel. Gotta have the skills, but those alone don’t always create success. There’s a part of teamwork that I’m firmly convinced transcends skill alone.

So, if you’re leading a team. Don’t forget that they need to work together. Schisms or disconnects are going to leave you with multiple, smaller teams, which may not be quite what you’re looking for. You’ll get a lot more by building a healthy pack.


About Mike Rodbell

I'm a technology leader, engaged in developing software for the telecom, online commerce, and business process/analysis markets. All of the teams I've worked with have had a great deal in common. They need to be good at what they do, listen, share, and collaborate towards a shared set of goals. This blog is dedicated to those activities. I hope you enjoy reading it.
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