As Americans we love our individuality—each of us following our own path to become heroes. We are independent, free spirits, doing our own thing. It’s the “Go West Young Man”– and “Pull Yourself up by the Bootstraps” philosophy that is based on personal discipline and individual fortitude. Yet in other cultures, the value and strength of the common is what propels the society forward. This means collaboration and respect for the synergy of group endeavors--- which are preferred over the achievement of the one.
I thought about this, as I watched geese fly over the house this Fall morning. In synchronization, the geese flew as a single flock, drafting one another for efficiency and power. It was the collective that instinctively knew the way south, ingrained in the psyche of the flock. Each year the rhythm and pattern of this flight is admired by those who watch, and intuitively I think we all know they would never succeed in reaching their destination alone. Together there is protection, security and strength, wings working in unison.
The lesson is obvious. In the struggle to compete and get ahead as individuals in the workplace, do we ignore the benefits of the team? Perhaps we can learn from Latino, Asian, Native American, African and other cultures that honor and celebrate the community. Let’s remind ourselves, that often the sum is greater than any one part.
This fall as we admire geese flying overhead, let go of ego and practice these three principles:
1. Ask for help from your colleagues and problem solve together vs struggling alone
2. Volunteer for task forces and committees where projects are managed with group processes
3. Remember creativity is often generated by diversity of thought – so welcome individuals from cultures different from your own and listen for new ideas