What does the “prehistoric Woodstock” teach us about team building?

Just Recruitment director Peter Foy reflects on the business lessons that can be learned from Poverty Point in Louisiana, USA.

Most historians and anthropologists believe that humans only created corporate structures when settled, agricultural, societies developed. Until that point, hunter gatherers worked in isolated units, rarely interacting with others and keeping to their own business.

But the discoveries at Poverty Point in Louisiana, USA, stand that idea on its head. This prehistoric site suggests that diverse families of hunter-gatherers came together to build a major structure, which may have been used for religious ceremonies, commerce or maybe even a settlement.

Whatever its precise purpose, the interesting thing about Poverty Point is that it would have involved a concerted effort by around 9,000 people to construct, probably working together for more than 90 days.

In other words, Poverty Point is evidence that prehistoric peoples could and did cooperate, working for a shared purpose.

The question then is: to what end? Evidence from the site suggests they didn’t just build it and disappear. It looks as if they hung around for a while and had what we might call a festival. Sort of a prehistoric Woodstock or Glastonbury. A massive party, in other words, with one clear motive: to encourage procreation between different tribes.

A consequence of such sexual congress was that the gene pool widened, thereby strengthening each family and giving them a greater chance of survival.

While it is tempting to dwell on the parallels between Poverty Point and the Summer of Love, my interest lies more in what this prehistoric site tells us about team working. Because it seems to me that Poverty Point is the ultimate team-building exercise: a massive structure that was created by people who had no previous connection and no common leaders, but worked together to create something huge.

What’s really interesting is the pattern of work at Poverty Point. It looks as if these strangers came together, built their festival site, had a party, and then moved on. But before going their separate ways, they dismantled the site, meaning it would have to be rebuilt next time they met. So the construction process, necessitating cooperation, was key to the whole experience. It was a part of the ritual.

There’s learning here for contemporary business people. We rely on teams to get things done. All the great entrepreneurs – Bill Gates, Alan Sugar, Richard Branson, Steve Jobs – emphasise the importance of employing great people and developing them into effective teams. As those prehistoric peoples at Poverty Point knew instinctively, no one achieves anything of any substance alone.

Teams, then, are the locomotive of history. As well as Poverty Point, they built structures such as the Pyramids, Stonehenge, and the Great Wall of China. And in a smaller way, teams are building great things every day. It took a team to build Just Recruitment. And it takes a team to make your company as successful as possible.

The key to building a great team is recruiting great people. That doesn’t happen by accident. A company could just trawl the job boards and look for CVs based on simple criteria. You could pay a company to do that for you. You give them £500 and they give you a number of CVs. But you don’t want a CV. You want a team member.

Companies like Just Recruitment don’t deal in CVs. We deal in people. For the past 35 years our motto has been “placing people first”, and it’s as true today as it was when we started out 35 years ago.

Rather than encouraging candidates to pebbledash every employer offering a vacancy with their CV, we work with them to find the right opportunities. We spend time understanding what our clients need, and we talk to candidates to match them against those needs. That way, we get the mix right – placing people in jobs for which they are made to measure. Helping clients develop teams that deliver success.

That’s always been at the heart of what we do as a team. Just like our prehistoric ancestors at Poverty Point, we understand that while the sheer beauty of our individuality is awesome, the incredible power of an effective team can change the world.

Published: 6 December 2018

© Copyright Just Recruitment 2018

If you liked this article you may like to read – How to create the perfect team-building exercise  

You may also like to read – Five Success Boosting Habits to Adopt Today 

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