The third culture – or – team relationship is fed by the diversity each person brings to the relationship. It grows or is reduced by the quality of information shared and team member understanding acquired. It is the team’s essence.

Copyright TIGERS Success Series

By Dianne Crampton

A team’s contribution is greater than the sum if its parts as shown in the interdependence equation, 1+1>2.  This is because people choose goals that complement commonly held agreements, principles, purposes, and intent.  The common ground, when based on quality and the sound uplifting values embodied in TIGERS, influences interpersonal respect, trust, genuineness, empathy, and success in implementing group goals. 

Another characteristic of the 1+1>2 equation is the emergence of a third culture.  Founded upon education and sound communication principles, it embraces the following ideas: 

As people teach each other about themselves, interdependent awareness evolves.  By integrating knowledge of one another, a new invisible culture emerges that is always changing.  When people emotionally, experientially, and holistically grow, the invisible culture also changes.

The third culture is fed by the diversity each person brings to the relationship.  It grows or is reduced by the quality of information shared and team member understanding acquired.  It is the team’s essence.

The third culture is best observed in terms of energy.  It is similar to kinetic energy, which is energy in motion.  The mathematical equation for kinetic energy is MV squared/2  

The motion is equal to half the product of its mass and the square of its velocity. 

For example, the motion (energy) of the team is the cohesive chemistry, synergy and life force of the third culture.  Although it encompasses a separate identity from each team member, it is composed of the energy each person contributes to the team.  Its motion is based on the reality that people are different and circumstances change.

The mass portion relates to the weight of understanding achieved when people educate one another about new work procedures, personal changes, experiences, thoughts, feelings and closely-held, non negotiable values.  It is a challenging aspect of the equation because sharing personal vulnerabilities is sometimes necessary.  It takes a very trusting, strong and self-assured person to share personal short comings with others.  For this reason, people schooled in relationship awareness, emotional management and emotional intelligence are valuable resources for long-term team maintenance.

The velocity portion of the equation represents the rate at which expressed changes are understood, accepted, and integrated.  In our model, however, velocity is not squared but is multiplied to an unknown power.  This is because relationship enrichment involves an empathetic and sometimes exponential faith. Also, when one person understands and integrates another person’s experiences, thoughts and feelings, it can alter the way the first person perceives the world.  Repeated integration is, therefore, enriched by interpersonal education and every-increasing awareness. 

The division of the product by two represents the effect of conflict on relationships.  If integration and increased understanding emerge from conflict, then the relationship aspect of the equation increases.  If the opposite holds true, then the changing team life force is reduced.  Our revised equation looks something like this:

3rd Culture (Relationship) =   Understanding X Rate of Integration                                                                                conflict                                                    

When conflict arises and is not resolved and understanding is not achieved, the net result is reduced team life force.  This is why in some group endeavors the net performance is lower than if one capable person had done the work alone.  On the other hand, when a team communicates well, cares about what it is doing, works to resolve conflict through understanding, creates effective group procedures and stated group norms, individual relationships build and improve.  This is especially true for multi-cultural teams with a need for multi-cultural awareness and understanding. 

Since the third culture is always changing, people leaving and joining the team influence its dynamic.  However, teams hold together when the quality of interpersonal communication, interpersonal understanding, respect, carefully crafted group norms, procedures and new member orientation exists.  This is probably most critical for small business groups, and entrepreneurial start ups.  Without careful consideration for the interdependence dynamic, high turnover results in reduced revenues and all team members consistently going back to  the beginning when new members join the group.

Furthermore, resistance between people lessens when people seek to expand into a greater encompassing collaborative culture.  The education and group learning process allows for the emergence of a third culture that is greater than the sum of its parts.  A crucial aspect of the 1+1>2 equation, however, is that people exhibit high levels of self-awareness in order to diagnose and claim responsibility for their own short comings.  This is problematic if the remaining TIGERS values are not engaged.