Does team training save lives? A new science gives it a rigorous evaluation

December 16, 2011

Whether the task is flying a plane, fighting a battle, or caring for a patient, good teamwork is crucial to getting it done right. That's why team-building and training courses are big business in the U.S., and have been for decades. But lately something has changed: "There's a demand for evaluations--an emphasis on showing that team training makes a difference in safety, decision-making, communication, clinical outcomes--you name the ultimate criteria the industry has," says Eduardo Salas, an organizational psychologist at the University of Central Florida.

The answer to that demand is the subject of a new article in Current Directions in Psychological Science, a publication of the Association for Psychological Science. "We are developing a new science to show what works and doesn't work and why," says Salas, who wrote the article with graduate students Marissa L. Shuffler and Deborah Diaz Granados.

A team is not just a machine for doing things; it is a system of social relations. Team training is about instilling knowledge, skills, and attitudes--needed competencies. Team building helps individuals on a team learn to about each other, clarify roles, work through problems, and cooperate toward accomplishing shared goals. Most interventions focus on the latter--"team building is the largest human-resources intervention in the world," says Salas--even though it has been found to improve performance little or not at all. "One conclusion we can begin to reach is that maybe both have a place; they are distinct interventions." But organizations rarely do the front-end work of figuring out which they need.

The science of teamwork is young, Salas allows. For one thing, the successes get published, while the failures fade into the ether. And while it's relatively easy to find out if people liked a program or absorbed some of the knowledge it imparted, it's far more complicated to evaluate whether workers have adopted the behaviors they've been trained in or are meeting longer-term goals such as improving safety, decision-making, or patient outcomes. But financial officers are no longer willing to take people off the job and invest millions on team training without some assurance that they'll get what they paid for.

The demand has been invigorating for the science of teamwork, Salas suggests. "Because of the push for results, we are getting better at collecting the data and are making a better case for cause and effect," he says, "I'm a little cautious, but the data are encouraging: We are showing that training produce results."
For more information about this study, please contact: Eduardo Salas at

Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, publishes concise reviews on the latest advances in theory and research spanning all of scientific psychology and its applications. For a copy of "There's a Science for That: Team Development Interventions in Organizations" and access to other Current Directions in Psychological Science research findings, please contact Divya Menon at 202-293-9300 or

Association for Psychological Science

Related Data Articles from Brightsurf:

Keep the data coming
A continuous data supply ensures data-intensive simulations can run at maximum speed.

Astronomers are bulging with data
For the first time, over 250 million stars in our galaxy's bulge have been surveyed in near-ultraviolet, optical, and near-infrared light, opening the door for astronomers to reexamine key questions about the Milky Way's formation and history.

Novel method for measuring spatial dependencies turns less data into more data
Researcher makes 'little data' act big through, the application of mathematical techniques normally used for time-series, to spatial processes.

Ups and downs in COVID-19 data may be caused by data reporting practices
As data accumulates on COVID-19 cases and deaths, researchers have observed patterns of peaks and valleys that repeat on a near-weekly basis.

Data centers use less energy than you think
Using the most detailed model to date of global data center energy use, researchers found that massive efficiency gains by data centers have kept energy use roughly flat over the past decade.

Storing data in music
Researchers at ETH Zurich have developed a technique for embedding data in music and transmitting it to a smartphone.

Life data economics: calling for new models to assess the value of human data
After the collapse of the blockchain bubble a number of research organisations are developing platforms to enable individual ownership of life data and establish the data valuation and pricing models.

Geoscience data group urges all scientific disciplines to make data open and accessible
Institutions, science funders, data repositories, publishers, researchers and scientific societies from all scientific disciplines must work together to ensure all scientific data are easy to find, access and use, according to a new commentary in Nature by members of the Enabling FAIR Data Steering Committee.

Democratizing data science
MIT researchers are hoping to advance the democratization of data science with a new tool for nonstatisticians that automatically generates models for analyzing raw data.

Getting the most out of atmospheric data analysis
An international team including researchers from Kanazawa University used a new approach to analyze an atmospheric data set spanning 18 years for the investigation of new-particle formation.

Read More: Data News and Data Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to