Screen Shot 2012-05-17 at 2.59.20 AMI have been meaning to share this list of great tips about building a productive academic team. Major projects often require an interdisciplinary team of experts who are equally motivated towards a shared goal. I was recently at the 2012 Society of Academic Emergency Medicine where Dr. William McGaghie gave an inspiring CDEM keynote speech. He has been on a myriad of successful academic teams and he shared with us his top 10 list of pearls for team-building.

William C. McGaghie, PhD

  • Jacob R. Suker, MD, Professor of Medical Education
  • Professor of Preventive Medicine
  • Director of Evaluation, Northwestern University Clinical and Translational Sciences (NUCATS) Institute
  • Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine Center for Education in Medicine

I am in the process of building a big academic team myself, comprising of rheumatologists, software engineers, instructional design experts, and an education research expert. This list came in quite handy for me and so I thought I’d share.

The team should have:

  1. Shared goals—common mission & vision
  2. Functional diversity (everyone should have different defined roles)
  3. Clear leadership—may change or rotate
  4. Shared mental models & language
  5. High standards, recognition, & credit
  6. Sustained hard work / commitment
  7. Physical proximity
  8. Minimize status differences within the team
  9. Maximize status of the team
  10. Shared activities that breed trust

While these tips may seem obvious, they are a worthwhile reminder nonetheless. Dr. McGaghie shared examples where different members took the lead on different manuscripts within the overarching project and that everyone’s opinions were valued. I found it interesting that he felt that physical proximity contributed to the success of his projects. In-person meetings and check-ins seem to have provided added value.

Michelle Lin, MD
ALiEM Editor-in-Chief
Professor and Digital Innovation Lab Director
Department of Emergency Medicine
University of California, San Francisco
Michelle Lin, MD

@M_Lin

Professor of Emerg Med at UCSF-Zuckerberg San Francisco General. Founder of ALiEM @aliemteam #PostitPearls https://t.co/7v7cgJqNEn
Michelle Lin, MD