There is an ‘i’ in team

“I’d like to be

Under the sea

In an octopus’s garden in the shade”

R. Starkey

I was in a café the other day and the music piped in the background was the Beatles’ (or to be more precise, Ringo’s) Octopus’s Garden. I had been pondering about teamwork, and it occurred to me that the song embraced precisely what can be wrong with the concept of a “team”.

For decades I’ve heard the mantra “there’s no ‘I’ in team”. (Other stock phrases are available). And I tend to agree that the output of a coordinated group of people is generally greater than the sum of its parts.  For example a band’s team extends to the songwriters and musicians, and to any number of folk who may be supporting them. Without one of these key elements the creativity might be compromised or the band might not be maximising their reach or income. There is definitely a team ethos required here.

My point however is that there most definitely is an ‘I’ in a team – and that is individuality. The secret is to play to strengths and let folk concentrate on what they do best, and it helps too if there’s a healthy tension. I might be wrong (in fact I probably am wrong) but to me Octopus’s Garden is the result of a compromise to keep HMS Beatles afloat for their last recording sessions. Would Abbey Road be worse without it?

Ability to compromise is obviously important from a business point of view but I think it rarely works from a creative one. For a start, I’m very happy that Morrissey and Marr didn’t replace There Is A Light That Never Goes Out with a Joyce/Rourke ditty on The Queen Is Dead. Or that Sid got a crack at writing a tune for Never Mind The Bollocks.

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