Differences Between Groups and Teams

Learning Outcomes

  • Differentiate between a group and a team

Groups and Teams

Is there a difference between a group and a team? Isn’t a collection of people just a collection of people regardless of what we call them? A group is comprised of two or more individuals who share common interests or characteristics, and its members identify with one another due to similar traits. A team, on the other hand, is a group of people with different skills and different tasks, who work together on a common project, service, or goal, combining their functions and providing mutual support along the way. Watch the following video, keeping those two definitions in mind. (Note that the video has no narration; only instrumental music and sound effects. Access audio description by using the widget below the video.)

Access the text alternative for “Coca-cola Heist” (opens in new window).

How many groups could you identify in the video? The bees were a group, the butterflies were a group, and the dung beetle who got the cap off the bottle was, well, sort of a group of one. What you saw in this commercial was the transformation of individuals, small groups, and even some larger groups into a team In a team, the members work together toward a common goal and share responsibility for the team’s success. In our video example, no group alone could have achieved the desired outcome of getting that bottle of Coca Cola open. Instead of focusing on enterprising insects, our discussion will focus on a specific kind of team: the work team.

Practice Question

Why Organizations Build Teams

U.S. olympic relay team in 1928In the last twenty years or so, teams have become a ubiquitous feature of corporate America. The primary benefit of teams and teamwork is that they allow an organization to achieve goals that individuals working alone may not. This advantage arises from several factors, each of which contributes to the overall benefit of teams. Two of these—higher-quality outcomes and individual context—are described below:

Higher-Quality Outcomes

Teamwork produces outcomes that make better use of resources and yield richer ideas.

  • Higher efficiency: Since teams combine the efforts of individuals, they can accomplish more than an individual working alone.
  • Faster speed: Because teams draw on the efforts of many contributors, they can often complete tasks and activities in less time.
  • More thoughtful ideas: Each person who works on a problem or set of tasks may bring different information and knowledge to bear, which can result in solutions and approaches an individual may not have identified.
  • Greater effectiveness: When people coordinate their efforts, they can divide up roles and tasks to more thoroughly address an issue. For example, in hospital settings teamwork has been found to increase patient safety more than when only individual efforts are made to avoid mishaps.

Better Context for Individuals

The social aspect of teamwork provides a superior work experience for team members, which can motivate higher performance.

  • Mutual support: Because team members can rely on other people with shared goals, they can receive assistance and encouragement as they work on tasks. Such support can encourage people to achieve goals they may not have had the confidence to have reached on their own.
  • Greater sense of accomplishment: When members of a team collaborate and take collective responsibility for outcomes, they can feel a greater sense of accomplishment when they achieve a goal they could not have achieved if they had worked by themselves.

The total value created by teamwork depends on the overall effectiveness of the team effort.