I recently did a TED Talk here in Brooklyn and the conference’s theme was teamwork. The first thing I thought when assigned the task was, “I don’t want to be part of that.” Teamwork is the bane of my existence. Almost every day I attend meetings with creative types where 50% of our time is spent placating the incompetents. We say, “That’s an interesting idea, Jennifer,” but we’re thinking, “can I go back to my desk now?”
The doctors I spoke to, especially the older ones, rolled their eyes when I brought up teamwork. They said the very nature of medicine is anti-teamwork because making one valid discovery is based on dozens and dozens of experiments that don’t pan out. To drag a team down an endless list of dead ends simply isn’t plausible, they said. Barry Marshall couldn’t convince his peers that stomach ulcers were caused by bacteria, so he swallowed the bacteria himself and was proved correct shortly after when it gave him both an ulcer and a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.