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Is working in a group really that important for success?

A group working together to make a decision.
Group work helps employees become more understanding of each other's needs.

ABC Radio Brisbane: Jessica Hinchliffe

While studying at university much of the curriculum revolves around group work, and team-building courses are often part of the modern workplace.

But do you roll your eyes or groan when the idea of working in a group is floated?

Professor Stephen Naylor, chair of the academic board at James Cook University, said teamwork was a critical skill and one of the main things employers looked for when hiring new staff.

"If an employer had to list the top three attributes they look for, being a team player is the second most important thing behind communication," he said.

A coffee trail group walking back their office
Heading back to the office after a 10-minute walking meeting.

ABC Radio Brisbane: Jessica Hinchliffe

"Sometimes we fail to recognise how important those skills are ... most people are going to work in an office or in a framework where you interact with people."

The love-hate relationship we have with group work

Professor Naylor said people should not "roll their eyes at group work".

"People need to get on the bus because group work is the future," he told ABC Radio Brisbane's Kelly Higgins-Devine.

"We're social beings and that's our strength, not something that should be frowned upon."

At university, Professor Naylor said group work was often used to show students how it could be a catalyst for change.

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"We show students that there's different components that make a team work, and when you find where your strengths align you can be a critical player in a group," he said.

"That allows you to understand where you can make your greatest contribution."

What makes a perfect group

Professor Naylor said the key to a good group involved leaders and idea creators.

"You need to allow enough oxygen to keep things bubbling away and the leader knows when to bring it in, then add fuel, and off she goes.

"That's the great skills needed in a good group."

He said as the world became smaller and travel became easier, everyone needed to learn how to work better with others from all backgrounds.

"I worked in Singapore for four years and it's a fine example of melting pots of different cultures coming together on a tiny island with no resources but people.

"What they've done is learnt to work together and to build on their strengths and extend their potential of people.

"We have to work better with different groups of people so we understand their needs and better ways of achieving things that Australia needs for the future."