Trust and teamwork – why they matter

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This week we’re starting with the article – ‘Gradually, Then Suddenly‘, before looking at the roles trust and collaboration play in organisations and finishing with a quick look at future skills.

‘Gradually, Then Suddenly’ explores how our world is changing, and how exponential technologies and trends tend to make small, incremental steps and improvements, before launching onto the world stage seemingly out of nowhere.

Written by Tim O’Reilly, the article looks at a series of different technologies that are on his mind, and right at the tipping point of the exponential curve, ready to transform our world. They are:

1. AI and Algorithms – they’re already everywhere, but they will soon partner with humans in almost every aspect of our lives. Amazon can’t run its global supply chain without AI, and we’ll soon live in a world in which most of our decisions will be guided by machines. Think lifestyle recommendations based on weather, style, price, interest – all according to your specific needs and wants.

2. A lack of infrastructure allows exponential technologies to be implemented. Think mobile payments in China, and drones in Africa. The developed world’s infrastructure can be a disadvantage when it comes to new technology.

3. Africa – it’s going to be huge, largely thanks to Chinese investment. China is positioning to race past America in global influence and power.

4. Agriculture. From robotic, super-efficient farming to meatless meats, there’s huge potential to improve yields and feed the world’s growing population while reducing water use and environmental harm. Did you know that the Netherlands is the world’s second-largest food exporter in the world? I didn’t either, and it demonstrates what’s possible.

5. Climate Change. It’s already happening, and we have about ten years to put the brakes on and try to reverse it, or at least not make it any worse. Could climate change trigger the collapse of our civilisation? Read Jared Diamond’s ‘Collapse’ to get an insight.

6. Gene Sequencing. Doctors are using HUV gene therapy to cure babies born with rare, previously incurable diseases. Bacterial dyes instead of chemicals? Individually-designed precision medicines? It’s all on the way.

7. Neutral Interfaces. Humans interact directly with computers through brain and nerve signals. We (or our grandchildren) will eventually integrate physically with machines, and the technology has the potential to powerfully augment and advance human ability in some areas.

8. Online Learning. Not traditionally-structured courses online, but intelligent learning on demand as-needed.

9. Government. Things are going to change so rapidly, governments may be unable to keep up, resulting in the collapse or irrelevance of our public institutions. These are essential: infrastructure, rule of law, protection of citizens, public services – they must not be allowed to fail, because if they do the social contract and society won’t be far behind.

The article finishes on an optimistic note, by reminding us that the future is up to us, and that no one outcome for humanity, positive or negative, is certain. O’Reilly very much sees the potential of technology and humans in terms of augmentation, and firmly believes that humanity has the ability to choose a bright future for itself.

Trust and Teamwork

What does the empirical evidence say really matters when creating a high-performing organisation in which people are motivated and engaged in their work? The answer: Trust. The question is, how can organisational trust be built and it’s existence quantified?

Paul J. Zaknat at Claremont Graduate University spent eight years measuring brain activity and oxytocin levels while people worked, and he identified the following as being critical to building high organisational trust:

1. Ovation – recognise and reward excellence.

2. Expectation – challenge people, and show them how their work is part of a wider mission.

3. Yield – delegate responsibility and trust people. Let mistakes be opportunities for learning, not blame.

4. Transfer – let people and teams have ownership of their work.

5. Openness – Be clear and honest. Even if it’s bad news, people prefer to be told in a transparent way.

6. Caring – care for other people, help them, build strong relationships.

7. Invest – find out what people’s personal and professional goals are and support them.

8. Natural – be genuine and authentic. Have integrity, and do the right thing when no-one else is looking.

Effectively, trust acts as a ‘social lubricant’, making the natural challenges of working together with others more enjoyable and enabling people to work at a higher level. The benefits are many: productivity and levels of innovation rise, burnout is reduced, and because work is such a big part of our lives, life generally feels better, and that’s a good thing for everyone.

Are educational and school leaders trained in understanding and facilitating factors critical to building organisational trust? How about teachers in classrooms? Would it help learning, and if so, how? Does your organisation (school?) have a high trust environment?

We often talk about the power of collaboration and building effective teams. However this article reminds us that collaboration may not always be in an individual’s or organisation’s best interests if the desired outcome is improved creativity. Some people work well collaboratively and creatively, others do not, and that’s why learning needs to be responsive to needs and strengths. Collaboration at all costs is not a balanced approach to learning or business.

Future Skills

What happens to people’s jobs as a result of automation is an open question. MIT Technology Review shares a perspective that rapid automation and use of AI may not necessarily lead to a loss of total jobs, and that new ones will be created. The research indicates that many routine jobs are already being lost, but new positions are being created that replace them. The problem that’s caused is that the replacement jobs are not always available in the same places that job losses tend to occur. This leads to some areas to decline economically, incomes to also decline and other areas to thrive. People can be reluctant to move due to family and community ties, and families suffer.

What’s the solution? The article discusses up-skilling and training, but who bears the cost? Unfortunately this issue is becoming more politicised – we have seen examples of laid-off workers in mining refusing to retrain due to political promises to reopen the mines, when all the evidence suggests that those jobs are not coming back.

Maybe we could have a discussion about these issues with young people. We could provide students with a data set and examine what trends and challenges emerge. Perhaps we can involve them in designing solutions?

To conclude this week, from the World Economic Forum we look at growing evidence that non-cognitive ‘soft skills’ (communication, teamwork, motivation) are becoming ever more important in the labour market for four key reasons:

1. Today’s jobs demand more non-cognitive social and service skills.

2. The labour market is rewarding these skills monetarily.

3. People with better soft skills are more likely to be employed.

4. People without soft skills don’t proceed as far in study and the workplace.

The article goes on to reference the fact that some major employers are struggling to attract people with the right skill sets despite excellent qualifications, and still others are starting to bypass qualifications and credentials altogether. The development of these core competencies needs to be woven into how students work and engage with learning tasks daily.

Like all skills, communication, teamwork and developing intrinsic motivation need to be learned, understood and practiced, and leaving it until students enter the workforce has real-world consequences. Math and English language competence and ability remain essential, but they are no longer enough. Are our schools and learning systems adapting to meet these challenges?

The research conducted and insights gained during the writing of this article have inspired the Indigo Schools Framework, the details of which can found in the Primer on our Resources Page. Send us an email at or complete the form below if you’d like to learn more about how the Indigo Schools Framework can be successfully applied within your school. Also be sure to follow us on Facebook and Linkedin for our latest updates.

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