Ditch the egos and share information to solve problems

Rice University
Office of Public Affairs / News & Media Relations

David Ruth

Amy McCaig

Ditch the egos and share information to solve problems
New Rice U. research examines the science of training teams to address issues in various industries

HOUSTON – (Jan. 28, 2019) – If they want to have the greatest impact on solving problems in industries such as aviation, defense and health care, researchers should set aside their egos, open their minds to freely sharing information and take lessons from past situations, according to a new paper from psychologists at Rice University.

A team undergoing training. Photo credit: 123rf.com

Photo credit: 123rf.com

Drawn from 50 years of literature on the topic of team training, “Teams of Psychologists Helping Teams: The Evolution of the Science of Team Training” will appear in an upcoming edition of American Psychologist. The article offers advice for making a real-world impact with science, summarizes the history of the science of team training and outlines lessons the authors say have led to success and significant safety improvements across various industries.

“Team training refers to a systematic set of learning initiatives that target and build teamwork,” said Eduardo Salas, chair and professor of psychological sciences and one of the paper’s co-authors.

“The science of team training is relatively new, yet impactful,” said Tiffany Bisbey, a graduate student at Rice and the study’s lead author. “In examining its progression over time, several themes appeared to repeat at each critical turning point.”

Team training really got off the ground in the 1970s to address human-error issues in the airline industry, Salas said.

“The industry was facing problems with fatal accidents and mishaps due to human error, particularly coordination and communication issues in flight decks,” he said. “There was a real need to develop these nontechnical skills.”

By the 1980s, the defense industry began to implement team training to address issues related to human error, Salas said.

“An accident in the late 1980s when a U.S. cruiser accidentally shot down an Iranian passenger jet led to Congressional funding to address team decision-making,” he said.

Team training has recently expanded to health care — addressing issues from general patient care to emergency room teams working together to save lives.

“The ultimate goal is to get rid of human error,” Salas said.

The researchers examined 50 years of research on the subject of team training and identified the top lessons for making positive changes within an organization.

First and foremost, the authors said mandates for change must exist within a particular industry, and to carry out these instructions, adequate resources to support the mandate must also be available. Next, there must be motivation from stakeholders to act on the issue at hand, as well as a sense of urgency to take action and offer solutions. There must also be a focus on end results. Finally, input from experts can be very beneficial, but there must be a willingness for those involved to set egos aside and do what is best to solve a problem.

The authors believe the success of team training across various industries sets a positive example for others looking to embrace the same benefits.

“The industries that have incorporated team training have made great strides in reducing human error,” Salas said. “Ultimately, we hope these nuggets of wisdom can be used by more people and organizations to make beneficial changes and help more teams operate more efficiently.

“In fact, the next frontier is space exploration and science teams, he added. “Going to Mars and (the necessary) knowledge generation and innovation is also a team sport.”

Rice graduate students Denise Reyes and Allison Traylor are co-authors of the paper. It was funded by in part by grants from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to Rice, the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program and the Ann and John Doerr Institute for New Leaders at Rice.


For more information, contact Amy McCaig, senior media relations specialist at Rice, at 713-348-6777 or amym@rice.edu.

This news release can be found online at http://news.rice.edu/.

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Related Materials:

Rice Department of Psychological Sciences: https://psychology.rice.edu/

Photo link: https://news.rice.edu/files/2019/01/29730713_l-1ggl7or.jpg

Photo credit: 123rf.com

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About Amy McCaig

Amy is a senior media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.