Antarctic expedition explores science behind building teams

Two-year research project assesses behaviour of teams under stress conditions.

A polar expedition led by the Royal Navy is to look into the nature of teamwork and what it takes to build effective teams.

The Royal Navy and Royal Marines’ Antarctic Endurance 2016 Expedition is part of a three-year project looking at resilience, performance and team dynamics within the context of physically and mentally gruelling challenges.

By the time the party reaches the Antarctic for a six-week sailing and mountaineering expedition in January 2016, the party will have been trimmed from 50 to 11 people. Royal Navy commander Tim Winter, who will lead the expedition, told Growth Business the coming year will see “an intense period of selection”.

Winter says that during the process the leaders will need to understand “who we’ve got coming forward, what their key strengths and weaknesses are and how they’re likely to be able to work together – especially in extreme environments and in very close quarters”.

“The more we understand how those people are going to react with each other and within themselves, the more likely we are to have a team that works well,” he said.

>See also: Why trust in business is a risk worth taking

Monitoring behaviour under extreme conditions is particularly valuable to general research, according to Winter.

“Extreme conditions tend to accentuate the good and the bad in most people,” he explained. “With the exception of very extreme reactions to conditions, it’s more how people respond to each other that becomes the issue in terms of people’s ability to cope with the elements.”

The selections for the expedition are going to be made with the help of two products developed by business psychology experts OPP. OPP head of R&D John Hackston told Growth Business incarnations of both of the tools “date back to the 1940s”.

“Obviously they’ve been updated since then,” he said. “The Royal Navy have used both before in their processes, but this latest project will be a really interesting way of using them.”

The research from the expedition will be published in early 2016.

Further reading on recruitment: Top 5 recruitment mistakes and how to avoid them


Hywel Roberts

Hywel was editor of Growth Business in 2015 and then moved on to be deputy editor at Works Management.