Team Building and productivity through team identity

You know those teams so different they don’t even seem to be part of the same company?
In Agility, we work with multidisciplinary teams because we know a high cohesion high-performance team can be way more productive and bring greater value to clients and the organization. But how do we create high cohesion teams?

One way to promote collaboration and engagement in a team is through creating and fostering its own identity.

Allying theoretical Psychology with my experience as a facilitator, I’ve made an experiment to co-create a way to give teams names and identities.

Minimal group paradigm and identity theory

In social identity Psychology, there’s the concept of minimal group within the theory of identity. Henri Tajfel and John Turner have, since the 1970s, been a cornerstone of identity studies: in short, they’ve established that communities tend to favor the ingroup, their team, which they identify with over the outgroup, other teams.

What does it mean?

The hypothesis behind this is that communities with different identities or names tend to cooperate less with than communities with a shared identity or name.

Teams with completely disconnected identities will probably have a weaker sense of cooperation, and success will depend more heavily on each member’s individual maturity and professionalism.

If there are several teams working towards the same goal, begin from “Start here” and follow through. If you just want to create an identity for your own team, begin from “team identity” (individual values).

Team Building

Start here

  • Survey ideas for a macro identity, one that’s possible to derive from. Example: Fruits, from which we can derive several others, like apple, orange, strawberry, etc.
  • Then have a vote on which of these people identify more with.
  • Once the macro identity has been chosen, start working team by team.

Team identity

  • List values that are important to each team member, values they take into consideration for day to day decisions. Ex.: A designer shows up with a hideout screen layout. What do you do? Do you say it’s pretty or it’s ugly, or do you say nothing? Which decision do you make? Each of these attitudes reflects an important value for you. If I value empathy, I’ll try to communicate in a way that considers the feelings of others. If I just value truthiness, I’ll say the truth no matter what. Write it down, one per post-it, for example, and then stack them with all the others from the team.
  • Now ask your team which of those values is important to them as a team. Run a dot voting to choose about 5.
  • Chosen these values, which name matches them? Which identity? Try to link values and names. This way you’ll be binding individual values to team values and to the team’s name. This name will be way more meaningful to group members.
  • All members can suggest several names and you can have another dot voting.
  • Voilà! Name chosen successfully!

Next steps

  • Consider how to foster a high-performance team with these values. This way the team will begin to show what high performance means within their own context.
  • In internal conflicts, remind the team about their values for decision making. This can often help solving several problems.
  • Use positive reinforcement whenever those values come into play.

You know those teams so different they don’t even seem to be part of the same company? Take a look at a good exercise for teams to find their names and identities.


Foto de Renan Melo
Renan Melo

Agile Expert at Knowledg21, Renan is a certified PSM, CSM, A-CSM, CSPO, CSD, KMPI and II, Management 3.0, and Flight Levels. He holds a Technology Management degree from Infet and a Music degree from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. For over five years, Renan has been working with...


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