The future of work is teamwork

Why is it so hard working with others? Dom Price, Head of R&D and Work Futurist at Atlassian, presented at a recent Innovating with Impact session, Deloitte’s monthly forum for leading innovators to present inspiring stories and cutting-edge perspectives. Dom shared the details of his ongoing mission to scale a global, multibillion dollar business – working with hundreds of teams to pioneer new ways of working.

An ex-Deloittian (3 years in London and 5 years in Sydney), Dom’s commentary was targeted and relevant.

Dom, you’re known as the ‘Team Doctor’. Why is teamwork such a big focus for you?

Whether you think we’re in the digital age or the mid-digital age, it’s easy to get drowned in the buzzwords of exponentials, AI, machine learning, and disruptive transformation.

The spiral that this causes – either into the echelons of utopia and the 4hr working week, or the dystopia of us being pets for robots – highlights one thing I believe we need to do right now to positively impact our future. We need to work in teams, and we need to rediscover what it is to be human.

Research shows that 90%1 of companies are solving problems so complex, they need teams to solve them. People… humans… with diverse skill sets that come together to collaborate.

Is teamwork broken?

Sadly, most of us experience the stress and tax of teamwork. The realisation that it would just be quicker and easier to do it yourself. Or even better, if everyone just communicated and acted the same way. The legacy we’re carrying is from the industrial revolution and the factory-mentality of running a business. The books I read at University (I only graduated in 2000, so I’m not that old!) taught me about Taylorism and the optimum size of the shovel.

But in a world where over half 2 the Fortune 500 from the year 2000 are no longer there, perhaps we need a new way of thinking and working? We need to quit our focus on being efficient, and instead focus on effectiveness and relevance. The dysfunction of our time might be that we know lots by having access to reams of information, but are paralysed trying to work out what to do with it all.

So, what does Atlassian do differently?

Atlassian has focused on understanding teams of all shapes and sizes, and building empathy for what factors help to drive autonomy, empowerment, agility, nimbleness and urgency. As we’ve scaled rapidly in an increasingly complex environment, we’ve learned that great teams have the right tools, the right people, and the right practices. And importantly, these 3 ingredients constantly evolve as the world around us evolves.

The creativity, curiosity and trust found at Atlassian make it open and playful. Guidelines replace strict policy. Adoption is favoured over adherence. Outcomes and impact are preferred to outputs and KPI’s.

Looking ahead, what excites you about the future of work?

We’re in an age where we’re creating our future, and embracing cognitively diverse and healthy autonomous teams – which will lead us to realise that collaboration and innovation aren’t taxes, but are essential investments. A time where we’re realise we should never be the smartest person in the room. And a phase where we stop competing with or mimicking the machines, to rediscover what it is to be uniquely human, and perfectly imperfect. We’re designing and building our future, so let’s build one where we thrive as humans.

If you want to learn more about how Atlassian works across its 400+ globally distributed teams, check out their Team Playbook where they’ve published their ‘secret sauce’… for free.

[1] “The Power of Many,” EY, 2013
[2] 50% churn in F500 (

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