From the editor: February 2018
By Laura Aiken
Our cover story on mutual aid covers just one aspect of how powerful working together is in the fire service. As you are well versed, teamwork is not a luxury for fire departments; it’s an essential that would be dangerous to operate without.
Teamwork is an oft discussed concept. Yuval Noah Harari argued that much of humanity’s rise to world dominance has rested on a unique species ability to work with people known and unfamiliar in his bestseller Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. Yet, it has definitions of mild variance. Teamwork is defined as “work done by several associates with each doing a part but all subordinating personal prominence to the efficiency of the whole” in Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary. In the English Oxford dictionary online, the definition is somewhat vaguer: “The combined action of a group, especially when effective and efficient.” Teamwork has a number of synonyms in the Gage Canadian Thesaurus: collaboration, concerted effort, esprit de corps and harmony to name a few. Harmony was an interesting choice. Anyone who has worked in any kind of team has probably experienced discord of some sort. Strong teams are often built on its solutions.
As the chiefs of our cover story identify, the sharing of services in their three communities has been a work in progress. I am guessing there was quite a bit of brainstorming that might have happened to come up with best practices. Brainstorming is an interesting aspect of teamwork that has seen recent evidence of its veracity emerge. Researchers at Northern Illinois University investigated brainstorming’s impact on teamwork and found that it is a contributor to building a strong team. The study, “Does Brainstorming Promote Cohesiveness? How the Rules of Brainstorming Mirror Symbolic Convergence” by university professors David Henningsen and Mary Lynn Miller Henningsen, was published in the journal Communication Reports online in November 2017. The research team, who studied 41 groups of 151 participants, found that sharing impractical ideas, building on the ideas of others, not judging the ideas and focusing on producing a lot of ideas increased the feeling of cohesion in the group. The writers also note that the effectiveness of brainstorming, despite widespread use, has received quite a few naysayers in the realm of social science research. This paper suggests that there may be a very important link between the act of brainstorming and building a tight team.
Perhaps it is the opening of communication lines that helps solidify an understanding of one another; which always seems to be the at the heart of what is sought by human dialogue, verbal or non-verbal. To take another’s ideas and build on it is to understand that idea in the first place, and that is a powerful bonding tool indeed.