“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” –Margaret Mead
So when did corporate team building start?
You will need to go back at least 80 years if you want to explore the history of teamwork and team building as we know it today.
That’s how long researchers have been examining the behavior of teams in the workplace. Today there are numerous teamwork theories around employee motivation, team development, workplace culture and the benefits of rewards and recognition. However in the 1920s, none of these concepts were well understood.
One of the earliest research studies into workplace behavior was that of Professor Elton Mayo and the Hawthorne Experiment. Mayo conducted experiments into teamwork and team building from 1927 to 1932 at the Western Electric Hawthorne Works in Chicago.
The experiments had the primary intention of studying the relationship between productivity and work conditions. Professor Mayo started these experiments by examining the physical and environmental influences of the workplace (e.g. brightness of lights, humidity) and then moved on to the psychological aspects (e.g. breaks, group pressure, working hours, managerial leadership).
The findings in Hawthorne Experiments have been generally described as the “Hawthorne Effect”, which can be summarized as “Individual behaviors may be altered because people know they are being studied.” The Hawthorne studies found that employees are not motivated solely by money and that motivation is linked to employee behavior and their attitudes.
At the time, there was no established history of teamwork and employee motivation research to rely on. Mayo’s findings were considered quite unusual. Today, we know that efforts by leaders to motivate teams through shared experiences have a real effect on productivity and performance.
Sport teams have also been a huge influence in how employers look at employee team dynamics. High performing sports teams have many of the same attributes that are sought after in work groups – collaboration, mutual support, desire to win and a shared goal. People naturally took “team” from a sports metaphor to business.
“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.” –Michael Jordan