See Inside June/July 2007

The Science of Team Success

A growing body of research shows that groups can systematically enhance their performance


"Houston, we've had a problem," were the famous words that announced a crisis onboard Apollo 13. Halfway through Apollo's mission to the moon, one of the spacecraft's oxygen tanks exploded, putting the lives of the crew in grave jeopardy. A group of engineers from NASA was hastily assembled. Their mission: invent a way for the crew to survive and to pilot their damaged vessel back to Earth. The engineers were successful, transforming a potential disaster into a legend of effective teamwork.

Human history is largely the story of people working together in groups to explore, achieve and conquer--and in our modern world the role of teams is only growing, spurred by globalization and the enabling factor of communications technology. Teams do not always play the role of hero, however. They have also been implicated in many political and military catastrophes, including the U.S. government's sluggish response to Hurricane Katrina, the failure to prevent the tragedy of 9/11 and the explosion of NASAs space shuttle Columbia.

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