Most organizations today require strong team working skills and tout the collaborative nature of their workplaces, so it perhaps goes without saying that there is considerable interest in what makes teams effective. A recent study suggests that being friends with your teammates does no harm whatsoever.
The researchers conducted a meta analysis of over 25 different studies on effective team work. The analysis revealed that when teams were mostly composed of friends, they performed a lot better than when team members were strangers. This was particularly pronounced when teams grew in size.
“Working with friends is not just something that makes us feel good – it can actually produce better results,” the authors say.
The power of friendships
The analysis explored a range of studies that had examined the performance of teams where participants were friends versus those where such friendships did not exist.
The results revealed that friendship provided a big boost to team performance, regardless of whether the tasks were mental or physical. It was also consistent across age groups, with the gain growing as the size of the teams increased.
“Friends can coordinate tasks more effectively,” the authors say. “They know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and can figure out how to break up the work in the most efficient way.”
Quality over quantity
It should be noted that the type of task did play a part however. For instance, teams with high friendship levels did very well when the goal was to produce the highest output, but they did no better than less friendly teams when the goal was to produce an optimal solution to a problem. The authors believe the output boost is because sustaining motivation can be the key factor in such tasks, and so friends can help do just that.
“When you’re working with friends, you tend to be in a better mood and can work through the adversity and strain that sometimes comes from having to produce a lot in a short time,” they say.
When quality is what’s needed however, there is a distinct advantage in working with strangers as this increases the ‘thought diversity’ of the group. Such groups are also more likely to have the constructive disagreements that are crucial to the construction of novel ideas.
The researchers hope that their work will provide managers with a greater understanding of how teams perform in various conditions, and when it’s good to have teams with high friendship levels, and indeed when it isn’t.