2: What does research tell us?

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As we saw in the last chapter, various claims have been made concerning the impacts that effective teamworking may have on both individuals and organisations, but similarly there are several reports where these assumed benefits have not always been fully realised. As Salas et al (2000, p 340) note, ‘many organisations have, in the past, assumed that a team is a mere collection of individuals and, as such, assumed that merely putting members together would result in effective performance, but this is not true.’ While there is a range of potential mitigating factors that might blunt the impact of teamworking, some commentators have also questioned the degree to which these presumed benefits have been demonstrated within a health and social care context. Zwarenstein and Reeves (2000, p 1022) describe this context as replete with rhetoric about the value of teamworking, but a lack of evidence to support the notion that it is necessarily a ‘good thing’ – hence their conclusion, ‘what’s so great about collaboration?’

In this chapter we consider the extent to which the aspirations of teamworking set out in Chapter 1 are reflected in the research evidence. As well as considering the findings of teams in health and social care in general, we focus in particular on the research evidence regarding teams in which professionals and practitioners from different disciplines and/or organisations work together. Increasingly professionals and practitioners are formally situated within teams that require interdisciplinary collaboration, and indeed, for many (for example, surgical teams), this has traditionally been the case.

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