Effective Teamwork Skills and Human Needs: Integration with The FISH! Philosophy

Published On: May 9, 2024Categories: Blog

In today’s interconnected global economy, the importance of teamwork has become increasingly apparent. A study highlighted by the Harvard Business Review notes a 50% increase in time spent on collaborative activities over the last two decades. This shift underscores the need for effective teamwork, prompting both organizations and academic researchers to seek ways to enhance team performance.

One notable example is Google’s research into team dynamics, as detailed by Charles Duhigg in The New York Times. Google’s extensive study of its teams sought to identify why some were more successful than others. Initial factors such as team composition, mission alignment, and individual skills did not explain the variance in performance.

Further investigation revealed that the highest-performing teams shared a common trait: the manner in which team members interacted. Duhigg reported that these teams were marked by equal participation in discussions and an enhanced sensitivity to each member’s feelings.

The concept of “psychological safety,” identified as a critical component of successful teams by Google, poses the question: How can this supportive culture be fostered? Duhigg shares an example of a team whose manager encouraged openness by sharing his personal struggle with advanced cancer. This act of vulnerability prompted team members to share their own challenges and shifted the team’s dynamic, enhancing trust and support.

This real-world example mirrors the philosophy behind John Christensen’s observation at the Pike Place Fish Market, where he noted the high levels of enthusiasm, joy, and synergy among the fishmongers. Inspired by author David Whyte’s insight that much of our passion and creativity is left at home, Christensen recognized the need to fulfill emotional needs at work to improve overall performance.

Christensen’s company, ChartHouse Learning, produced a film titled FISH! about the fishmongers, introducing The FISH! Philosophy. This philosophy comprises four practices that build the foundation for effective work cultures:

  • Be There: This practice encourages a culture where everyone feels heard and supported, enabling better service to both colleagues and customers.
  • Make Their Day: Through this, individuals show their colleagues and customers that they are valued, enhancing mutual respect and motivation.
  • Play: This practice allows for the exploration of new ideas and authentic self-expression in a safe environment, contributing to the sense of psychological safety.
  • Choose Your Attitude: This empowers individuals to be mindful of their impact on others and to actively shape the kind of day they wish to experience, promoting a positive and productive work environment.

The FISH! Philosophy goes beyond creating a happy workforce; it empowers people to utilize all their resources—job training, experience, strategy—and collaborate more effectively. Though sometimes referred to as “soft” skills, these practices form the solid backbone of team excellence, proving essential for high-performing teams.

Interested in Implementing FISH! in Your Organization?

Discover how the FISH! Philosophy can transform your workplace culture. Book a meeting with a FISH! Guide to get started or learn more!


Duhigg, Charles. “What Google Learned From Its Quest to Build the Perfect Team.” The New York Times Magazine, February 28, 2016.


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