Q. “So what would you say you… do here?”
A. “I have people skills!”
So I’ve long joked about my career, saying that I’m kind of a very expensive router. But maybe, it seems, a somewhat jokey connector is rather vital in a team’s success:
Something researchers have already learned from these experiments is that certain personality characteristics are essential to helping groups work well together. A good group needs a leader, a social secretary, a storyteller and a mixture of introverts and extroverts. Intriguingly, by far the most important role seems to be that of the clown.
According to Jeffrey Johnson, an anthropologist at the University of Florida who has spent years examining relations between people in Antarctic crews overwintering at the South Pole, the clown is not only funny, he is also smart and knows each member of the group well enough to defuse most of the tensions that might arise during long periods of close contact. This sounds rather like the role of a jester in a royal court. The clown also acts as a bridge between different groups of people—in Antarctica the clowns linked scientists on the base with the tradesmen who also worked there. In groups that tended to fight most or to lose coherence, Dr Johnson found, there was usually no clown.
[Via Alasdair Mackintosh]