A couple of years ago Google launched ’Project Aristotle’ to find out how an effective team works. Findings indicated that the success of a team has little to do with personalities and skills. The interaction between team members is far more important. Does this surprise you?

Roughly a decade ago, digitalization and the rise of social media forced advertising agencies to rearrange. Bill Bernbach’s idea of pairing art directors and copywriters didn’t seem to be enough. New requirements demanded a new kind of skill set and along came social media specialists, digital designers and creative technologists. There was no longer space for rock star creatives.

Like marketing, evolution has affected football teams. In the 19th century, defensive football was an unknown concept. Team line-ups favored players with ability to score goals – only one player would remain in defense, picking up loose balls. But when the competition got tougher, there was a need for more structured team play.

One of the Project Aristotle’s findings was the concept of ’psychological safety’ – a shared belief that the team is safe for risk taking and sharing ideas without the fear of being humiliated. Earlier studies suggest the same. A Harvard paper from 2006 (Huckman & Pisano) proved that the performance of heart surgeons improved when working surrounded by their usual team. When working with unfamiliar personnel the same surgeons were more prone to errors. Thus, shared experiences, habits and a way of working play a major role in building a strong team. What is Messi without Barcelona?

Having the best players don’t always guarantee wins. Just last year, Leicester City FC won the Premier League title with the 17th biggest budget in a twenty-team league. Leicester had no real superstars, but their squad was well-balanced.

In the 70s, Dutch team Ajax introduced Total Football where players can take over any other position if needed. Whether talking about football or advertising, the most required skill is to execute the playbook on a high level day-to-day. The ability to trust everyone to do their share is the foundation of a collaborative climate and empathy.

Total Marketing requires creatives who can think strategically and producers with creative thinking. All team members should be able to contribute to all stages of work. Client directors don’t need to spend time on writing headlines, but they should understand where the most likely spot to score is and send the ball that way.