It seems that people have been spelling team with an “i” for a long time. We live in a culture that promotes the roughed individual, the self-made person, the entrepreneur. They did it all themselves, or so they say.
But even the most charismatic and self-reliant people are not working in a vacuum. Others are always instrumental in any major project. The truth is that teamwork is the shoulder on which all major successes rest. Whether that be the building of the pyramids in Egypt or the dominance of Apple in the marketplace.
But don’t take our word for it. There are many examples throughout history that illustrate the importance of teamwork. We cherry-picked nine of our favorite inspirational examples of teamwork as it applies to a variety of circumstances. It won’t be long before you’re won over on the benefits of teamwork and collaboration.
1. The Beatles, Live in Hamburg
Everyone knows the Beatles. They defined the 1960s, moving from the Mersey Beat that made them a boy band that the girls loved to folk and psychedelic rock, inventing new genres seemingly with ease. Their music is the soundtrack of an era and continues to influence musicians to this day. But those are the flowers that grew from the dirt. That fertile soil that nourished and sustained them was far from their Liverpool home.
During the very early 1960s, before any radio play and Beatlemania wasn’t yet a word, they were the house band for a ruckus portside bar in Hamburg, Germany, called the Kaiserkeller. There they had to play for hours and hours, stretching three-minute pop songs into 20-minute jam sessions. It was in this crucible, that the four soon-to-be mop tops bonded musically. It was through live performances that they learned to put on a show, according to George Harrison on the Beatles Anthology DVD.
The magic of the Beatles is that four individuals learned through intense and extended live sessions to play as one, to anticipate each other and develop an almost intuitive communication. That set the stage which allowed their songwriting gifts to flourish. It was teamwork, plain and simple, that gave the Beatles the musical chops to develop their potential.
2. The Miracle on Ice
The United States upset victory of the Russian hockey team in the 1980s Olympics was called the “Miracle on Ice” for good reason. The Russian team had dominated the sport for as long as anyone could remember, and in the United States hockey has always been a second- or third-tier sport. How the 25-year-old team captain Mike Eruzione got his team to bring home the gold and beat the odds-on favorites, the seasoned Soviet team, is a most inspirational teamwork example.
As a child, Eruzione never thought of himself as a star player; he thought of himself as a team player. He believed success was due not to individuals excelling as much as everyone on the team carrying their own weight and having a strong work ethic. Though at Boston College he didn’t make the cut and was placed on the B team, he was told not to lose confidence.
It was those early lessons in teamwork that helped him gain the respect and trust of the Olympic hockey team. He understood that there were a lot of egos on the team that had to be put aside for the good of the team. Everyone had to feel they were contributing. The backup goalie, Steve Janaszak, never played in the Olympics, but he was as important to the win as anyone. Do you believe in miracles?
3. Apollo 11 Moon Landing
One of the most historic examples of teamwork is the Apollo 11 1969 mission. While the world focused on the three astronauts, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, the former two who walked on the moon, most remember only Armstrong and his famous line upon being the first human being to set foot on the satellite: “This is one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
However, behind that momentous moment are years of research and teams of people working diligently to do what no one had done before. Mission planners worked for two years prior to launch, studying the moon’s surface using satellite photographs in order to discern the best site for a lunar landing.
Related: See how NASA Uses ProjectManager.com
According to NASA, there were an estimated 400,000 people involved in making the moon landing possible. This included teams of scientists, engineers and technicians, many who had not worked in aerospace before. To make for a more cohesive team, the astronauts worked with many of these groups, making the human connection that is the blood of any team.
The digital age is defined by teamwork, and one new media company illustrates that more than any other. Wikipedia is everyone’s go-to when they need a quick answer. It’s library of the internet, a collaborative engine of knowledge that is constantly evolving.
There were once encyclopedias that collected the world’s knowledge, but these are static volumes that are only updated every number of years. Also, what is printed between their covers is not up for debate. If you have a problem with what’s listed, you could write to the editors and maybe even get a response.
But Wikipedia changed that whole paradigm by recruiting an army of volunteer writers and editors who put the facts into its website. This simple but effective and massive example of teamwork is almost incomprehensible in its scope and yet runs surprisingly well. There are mistakes, but the site is built in such as fashion that these anomalies are quickly discovered. Teamwork is essential for Wikipedia because in a sense, everyone who has ever landed on the site is part of the team.
Related: 30 Fun Team Building Games for Work
5. The Starbucks Expansion
It might be a joke now (how there’s a Starbucks on every block and soon occupying every storefront), but it wasn’t always like that. In fact, the dominance of Starbucks was never as sure a thing as it looks in retrospect or over its company timeline. Back in the early 1990s, Starbucks chairman and CEO Howard Schultz had opened a few hundred new stores across the United States, but the business was not successful.
The ambitious expansion was hitting problems concerning customer service and a lack of communication between various levels of the company. The company might have brewed a winning cup of joe but their customer service and employee engagement were staler than a pot of yesterdays coffee.
In 1995, Howard Behar became the president of Starbucks and with him came advancements in company culture. He cultivated a work environment that met the employees needs, which in turn inspired them to better serve their customers. It was through his belief that it was not the coffee they were selling but the customer experience, which gave Behar the mission statement to rally his teams to work together more effectively.
D-Day, or the invasion of Normandy, retaking Nazi-occupied France, was the turning point of World War II in Europe. Many things went into the success of D-Day. There’s the logistics management of aligning so many troops and equipment, while keeping the whole operation a secret. Naturally, it was also a strategic win for the Allies. But all these parts worked together only because of teamwork.
The beaches of Normandy, which was the spearhead of the invasion, were boobytrapped and obscured by wooden stakes, metal tripods and barbed wire. Casualties were high on that day on June 6, but if it wasn’t for beach-cleaning teams they would be higher, according to D-Day: The Battle for Normandy by Antony Beevor.
From the generals on down to the grunts, everyone who sacrificed their lives for the greater good did so because they worked together as a team for ideals that are more important than individuals. It’s almost impossible to understand how people could place themselves in harm’s way like that, but teamwork makes us bigger in more ways that we can count.
7. The Iliad
This oral epic attributed to the Greek poet Homer, which was put down in writing sometime in the 8th century B.C., might be historical, or it might not. It’s hard to say. Historians have debated whether there was in fact a Trojan War or not. So, why include this? Because it might be the granddaddy of all inspirational tales of teamwork.
For one thing, the Iliad shows how difficult teamwork can be and how essential to success it is. The epic underlines the many ways teams can fail and how important it is to steer them to those narrower avenues that lead victory. In the story, Agamemnon disrespects Achilles, his best warrior, taking his slave girl as his own. Needless to add, this creates a great deal of conflict between the two allies. The erosion of trust between the two leads to tragic ends.
The Iliad is many things, and to simplify it as merely a parable about teamwork would be to do the classic a disservice. That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be read and appreciated on many levels, including what it can tell us, in the most dramatic ways, about teamwork and the importance of not acting selfishly and risking the loyalty of the team.
8. The Growth of Marvel Comics
We’re not talking about the teamwork of fictional Marvel comic creations, such as the Avengers, X-Men or the Fantastic Four, though we could. But more interesting than the superheroes are the super-talented teams that worked to create the comic books that have gone on to movie stardom.
There were writers, like the famous Stan Lee, who often came up with an idea that the penciler, someone like Jack Kirby (Captain America, the Hulk, etc.) or Steve Ditko (Spider-Man and Doctor Strange) would then block out in pages of dramatic sequential drawings. Then the boards would go to a letterer and inker before a colorist would add the primary colors. These would then be sent to a printer, distributed and sold at the local drug store or comic book shop.
Each step of this process had to be carefully planned among all parties, of course, but there would also be collaboration between writers and artists as they developed characters and conflicts to add drama to the stories. Teamwork kept the gears well-greased and their work has since elevated “silly kids stuff” into the mythology of the future.
9. The Constitution of the United States
The Constitution of the United States is a foundational document of our democracy. It is also a prime example of teamwork. The then 13 states, all of which would have to ratify the constitution to make it the law of the land, were not united. There was no central government and the risk of the new nation falling apart was even more of a concern than it is today!
Debates raged over such things that we today take for granted like how long a president’s term should last. For four months delegates debated, until on September 17, 1787, the 39 delegates signed the historic document. Of course, that wasn’t the end of it. Now voters in each state had to approve. But the delegates did their job and the people ratified the Constitution in 1789.
Teamwork is not having one person force their way on the others: it’s about being open to compromise. All parties involved must find common ground and work together, because the end result is something all can benefit from. Just like the Constitution, which has been amended over the years as times and attitudes change, so teamwork must be a fluid process, not etched in stone, but always open and willing to improve.
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