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Syracuse University Professors Co-author Book on Collaborative Success

Syracuse University Professors Co-author Book on Collaborative Success

Two Syracuse University faculty members recently published a book centered around team collaboration, titled “Team Being: The Art & Science of Working Well with Others.” The publication is a culmination of years of research conducted by the authors, Martin J. Whitman School of Management Professor Emeritus Gary Gemmill and S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications Professor and Chair of the Television, Radio & Film (TRF) department, Michael Schoonmaker.

Gemmill explains that the inspiration for the book came from working with Schoonmaker in a TRF class in which students had to work in large teams to make short films and original television series. 

Professor Emeritus Gary Gemmill

Chair of the Television, Radio & Film (TRF) department, Michael Schoonmaker

“Team Being” takes a look at how people work together and what is necessary for a team to thrive. “You can find many books about teamwork in libraries, and stories that boil down its practice into a few steps,” says Gemmill. “There are considerably fewer books that delve beneath the surface of teamwork to its often chaotic-undercurrents like this book does. We show the path from singularity to team being.”

“’Team Being’ is a book about creative collaboration — what it is, how it works and how to maximize chances of doing it well,” Schoonmaker explains. “The book is built upon years of experience working with thousands of nascent teams from education, business and government where participants were expected to generate results in formations from two to 25 people.”

Schoonmaker earned a master’s degree and Ph.D. from Syracuse University. He then worked at MTV and NBC before coming back to Syracuse to be a professor. Over the past 30 years, he taught in and was involved with the TRF department before becoming chair in 2000. 

Gemmill began his career at Syracuse University in 1966, after earning a master’s degree and Ph.D. from Michigan State University. He has taught at Syracuse since that time, and though he is retired he still teaches a graduate weekend course at Newhouse called the Art and Science of Creative Collaboration. 

Gemmill has also been involved with various other institutions during his professional career, including L’Université du Québec à Montréal in Montréal, Quebec and the University of Fort Hare in Alice, South Africa where he was a visiting faculty member and an external Ph.D. reviewer of dissertations, respectively.

“Team Being” is not Gemmill’s first book. In 2010, he co-authored “A View from the Cosmic Mirror: Reflections of the Self in Everyday Life” with psychologist George Kraus, Ph.D.. He was able to use the experiences and knowledge from that to get a deeper understanding of the content of his new book.

“My learning from co-writing the Cosmic Mirror book enabled me to see the results of cultural conditioning and unconscious forces that limited the ability of team members to creatively collaborate,” he explains. “Their students’ learning experiences were primarily centered on focusing on pleasing an authority figure, not on being able to creatively collaborate with their peers in the class much less the professor … we found a complex set of forces that are involved in moving from a singular mindset to a collective mindset. In order to maximize our understanding of critical forces, we engaged in repetition to build and fortify on working theories on creative collaboration.”

Though the book came from studying the processes of student teams, the authors emphasize that the content can be applied to people in a wide variety of professions and situations. “We designed it for a wide audience including students who work in teams, professors who utilize teams in their courses, team leaders in all kinds of fields,” says Gemmill. 

As for what readers can take away from the book, the intent is simply that readers learn about working with others and become better team members themselves. “‘Team Being’ is designed to help leaders better understand and effectively harness these forces in maximizing creative outcomes and overall success,” says Schoonmaker. “The book is specially designed to provide an adaptive perspective on collaboration dynamics to apply to unique work cultures, environments and challenges.”

Learn more about Whitman faculty research and publications.

Mallory Carlson