Extreme teams are specialized work groups whose members are experts with diverse backgrounds and skills. Often, team members represent multiple organizations and come together quickly to address sudden, calamitous problems. Leadership experts Amy C. Edmondson and Jean-François Harvey detail what makes extreme teams special, what it takes to lead them and what they can accomplish. If you want a dramatic example of an extreme team at work, consider the rescue of 33 Chilean men trapped far down in a collapsed mine.
The 2010 rescue of 33 trapped Chilean miners exemplifies the capabilities of “extreme teams.”
The dramatic rescue of trapped coal miners in Chile illustrates the power of extreme teams: quickly assembled groups of diverse experts who come together to address a challenging problem.
On August 5, 2010, an explosion at the San José copper mine in Chile caused “half a million tons of rock” to collapse, closing the mine entrance and trapping 33 miners some 700 meters (2,300 feet) beneath the surface of the Earth. Keeping the miners alive and getting them safely to the surface seemed impossible. Yet, within 70 days, every miner was above ground and back with his loved ones – thanks to an extreme team’s efforts and accomplishments.
Hundreds of different authorities came together to save the miners: drilling technicians, geology experts, engineers and other specialists from all over the globe. This cross-industry group sliced through myriad “physical, organizational, cultural, geographic and professional boundaries.”
Chilean President Sebastian Piñera and the Chilean minister of mining...
Amy C. Edmondson, Novartis Professor of Leadership and Management at the Harvard Business School, explores collaboration in uncertain, ambiguous settings. Jean-François Harvey is an assistant professor in the Department of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at HEC Montréal.