Teamwork: the final frontier

Thursday 9 October 2014 by Andrew Wolfe

Mars colony.

Comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring is set to pass close to Mars on 19 October and, last month, India successfully put an unmanned spacecraft into Mars’s orbit for the first time. This monumental achievement got me thinking about how so many complex elements had to work together to make it happen – it took a lot of teamwork.

I’ve always had a passion for astronomy. When I was young, I thought just about every star in the sky had planets. There are about 100 billion stars in our galaxy. If just 0.5% of them have planets, that’s 500 million stars with planets in our galaxy alone – and there are about 100 billion galaxies in the known universe. Astronomers at Caltech estimate that there are 100 billion planets in our galaxy and billions of them are Earth-sized. I think many are teeming with life.

I believe that the first solid evidence of life on another planet will come from Mars in the form of fossils. I fully expect that explorers will find fossils of ammonites and other oceanic creatures there. But we have to get people to Mars before we can find those fossils, and getting people to Mars and back home safely is going to take a lot of teamwork – on Earth, in the capsule and on Mars.

Teamwork is essential to the success of any complex endeavor. We seem to be at our best, and our worst, when we work together. The most wonderful (and the most dreadful) human achievements have been accomplished through teamwork.

Path to success

Collaboration is key to business success – and brands are increasingly placing it at the very heart of their internal culture. It starts with engaging all levels of the company in communications, particularly around new strategies and issues that affect the whole business. This can encourage creativity, generate new ideas and build stronger employee buy-in. While not all employees will be on board with every decision, involving them in the process makes even dissenters more open to change.

This type of engagement fosters teamwork and can be built into a brand’s identity – internally and externally. The IBM Smarter Cities Challenge, for example, is a global philanthropic initiative through which IBM helps cities become “smarter.” Detailed insights are uncovered to help them capitalize on existing and new technologies, with a focus on key areas like transport, policing and sustainable energy. The projects involve extensive collaboration at all levels, not least between the IBM teams and the governing bodies of the cities chosen.

The “Go Further” campaign from Ford sought to make the tagline part of the company culture by aligning its internal brand with its external messaging, helping to inspire behavior and “create profound synergies that benefit the company.” The approach is in line with the views held by company founder Henry Ford, who once said: “If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.”

The Caterpillar Code of Conduct lists teamwork as a basic principle, with the tagline, “We help each other succeed.” With the company recording nearly $1 billion in profit during its latest quarter, it looks like its focus on collaboration is paying off.

HP also lists “Results through teamwork” among its core values. And, amid reports this week that the company is set to split in two by spinning its computer and printer business from its corporate hardware and services division, that ethos will be put to the test.

These brands don’t just list “teamwork” and “collaboration” as buzzwords on their corporate boilerplates – they are living these values and pushing them throughout the company. Together, we truly are stronger: we can capture the imagination with new ideas, build successful brands and perhaps one day walk among the flora and fauna of alien worlds…


  • Collaboration
  • Strategy
  • Astronomy
  • Teamwork
  • Mars