Right, familiarity supposedly breeds contempt according to the ancient story of the Fox and the Lion. However, when it comes to team performance familiarity quite often leads to higher performance!
Robert Huckman and Bradley Staats tell this fascinating story about “the Henry Ford of Knee replacements” orthopaedic surgeon who was by far the fastest, most productive and best (less complications) knee replacement surgeon in the US.
His key to success?
He worked with the same two, familiar, teams in the same two operating rooms for years and years. And this is not only true in health care. It is also true in defence teams, sports teams, in aviation and in corporate teams.
Huckman and Staats found that when “familiarity increased by 50%, defects decreased by 19%, and deviations from budget decreased by 30%”. They also found in terms of predictors familiarity is better than individual experience of team members or team leaders.
It seems that the logic and advantages of team work are so widely excepted that we have started to believe these advantages should come automatically. But no, team performance needs dedicated and intentional work and, yes, it also needs familiarity.