In my youth I had many of those classic experiences in which someone (typically a teacher) selects two of the most popular and athletic kids and asks them to choose their own teams for some activities. The designated team captains took turns picking team members, although there was never any surprise as to the order of the choices. I was usually selected somewhere in the middle; I wasn't the most awesomely popular kid but I was reasonably well liked.
As a professor, I am responsible for choosing team members for a big project. This project will involve a large number of people from many different countries, and I need to devise an effective working group. I have been working hard to come up with a research team that is as compatible as possible. Do I choose my friends? The most popular scientists? Some new kids?
Thus far, I have encountered two types of obstacles to establishing a harmonious team.
One type involves statements like “I refuse to work with X”, in which X = another person who is already part of the group and is already making important contributions. If someone refuses to play with others, they can’t be on my team.
Another obstacle occurs when someone has political reasons for wanting someone else to be invited to be on the team. An example is when a young colleague who is part of the group requests that a senior professor in the same department be invited because otherwise the senior professor might be angry and could make life difficult for the younger professor. Do we invite bullies to be on the team because otherwise they might beat up one of the team members?
It may not be possible to assemblage a diverse group of people who can all get along and contribute substantially to the group effort, but it should be possible to leave out those who don't get along with others and those who aren't interested in the research. For me, it seems that team-choosing is still a part of life and still involves complex social issues.
8 months ago