What is the Difference Between a Team and a Group?

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick
An accident investigation team might consist of many specialists working together.
An accident investigation team might consist of many specialists working together.
An accident investigation team might consist of many specialists working together.

Many people used the words team and group interchangeably, but there are actually a number of differences between them in real world applications. A number of leadership courses designed for the corporate world stress the importance of team building, not group building, for instance. A team's strength depends on the commonality of purpose and interconnectivity between individual members, whereas a group's strength may come from sheer volume or willingness to carry out a single leader's commands.

Trial juries are an example of a group that is created with a particular task to perform.
Trial juries are an example of a group that is created with a particular task to perform.
Trial juries are an example of a group that is created with a particular task to perform.

It is often much easier to form a group than a team. If you had a room filled with professional accountants, for example, they could be grouped according to gender, experience, fields of expertise, age, or other common factors. Forming a group based on a certain commonality is not particularly difficult, although the effectiveness of the groups may be variable. A group's interpersonal dynamics can range from complete compatibility to complete intolerance, which could make consensus building very difficult for a leader.

Teamwork may be required in a variety of fields to produce better results.
Teamwork may be required in a variety of fields to produce better results.
Teamwork may be required in a variety of fields to produce better results.

A team, on the other hand, can be much more difficult to form. Members may be selected for their complementary skills, not a single commonality. A business team may consist of an accountant, a salesman, a company executive and a secretary, for example. Each member has a purpose and a function, so the overall success depends on a functional interpersonal dynamic. There is usually not as much room for conflict when working together in this way.

The success of a group is often measured by its final results, not necessarily the process used to arrive at those results. A group may use equal parts discussion, argumentation and peer pressure to guide individual members towards a consensus. A trial jury would be a good example of a group in action, not a team. The foreperson plays the leadership role, attempting to turn 11 other opinions into one unanimous decision. Since the jury members usually don't know one another personally, there is rarely an effort to build a team dynamic. The decision process for a verdict is the result of group cooperation.

Team building is often a key component of a corporation.
Team building is often a key component of a corporation.
Team building is often a key component of a corporation.

A team, by comparison, does not rely on "groupthink" to arrive at its conclusions. An accident investigation team would be a good example of a real world team dynamic. Each member is assigned to evaluate one aspect of the accident. The expert on crash scene reconstruction does not have to consult with the expert on forensic evidence, for example. The members use their individual abilities to arrive at a cohesive result. There may be a team member working as a facilitator for the process, but not necessarily a specific leader.

The success of a group is often measured by its final results.
The success of a group is often measured by its final results.
The success of a group is often measured by its final results.

Group building can literally take only a few minutes, but team building can take years. Individual members of a group often have the ability to walk away when their services or input become unnecessary. A team member's absence can seriously hamper the abilities of other members to perform effectively, so it is not uncommon for individual members to form an exceptionally strong allegiance to the team as a whole. An elite military unit such as the US Navy SEALS or the Army Rangers could be considered examples of team building at its best.

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

A regular wiseGEEK contributor, Michael enjoys doing research in order to satisfy his wide-ranging curiosity about a variety of arcane topics. Before becoming a professional writer, Michael worked as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

A regular wiseGEEK contributor, Michael enjoys doing research in order to satisfy his wide-ranging curiosity about a variety of arcane topics. Before becoming a professional writer, Michael worked as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.

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Discussion Comments

anon196892

@anon131693: I suppose if a team were large enough, it could also contain several groups within itself. Those groups, however, would still be operating with a singular function or focus. A criminal investigation, for example, might require several teams of experts-- medical forensics, ballistics, detectives, crime scene investigators, and so on, but an individual team, such as detectives, may consist of a group of law enforcement officers.

Individual members may not have worked together before, which would meet the definition of a group, but they're all working towards the same goal (develop the criminal case), so they would also be considered a team.

anon160648

Really enjoyed this article, it really gave me good insight as to which direction I wanted to go on my paper. Thanks a bunch.

anon132791

And to think I couldn't understand the difference. Thank you for making it easy.

anon131693

Can there be a group inside a team? or vice versa?

anon129717

I wish students would take the information as shared and learn to place it in their own words. For example, in one class - a measurable number of students all typed "A good example of a group would be a jury" which was traced back to this site. While this information provides you good direction, you will want to used peer reviewed sources.

anon123227

Well presented and very simply put. It has provided the meanings of the two and their differences. It has helped me greatly understand the two words and provided me with the material to answer a question in a leadership course. Thank so very much!

anon111020

great article. exactly what i was looking for. thanks!

anon101344

this is what we need. thanks.

anon101284

Great article. I am doing a paper on behavioral management and it helped me clarify the two. Thank you!

anon92621

thank you indeed, it's very helpful.

anon90856

Excellently thought out. very simple to grasp the concept. Thanks a lot. Andrew

anon90381

Thank you, thank you.

anon88820

Thank you. this article really helped me to actually understand the difference between a group and a team. Very, very nicely represented.

anon85148

very correct. Now i understand the difference between a group and a team.

anon78871

it's very good. thanks.

anon76124

It is really correct. I appreciate you!

By Eugene

anon75557

Easy to understand the difference between team and groups.

anon75044

really good one.

anon74280

good article. one thing i want clarify that article shows in the fourth paragraph.in team there is no specific leader. i saw in organization there is a team leader in their team where role of team leader to facilitate for attainment of shared vision.

anon71596

Really perfect definition and examples for all the readers.

anon71428

Awesome one. very useful. thanks for the article.

anon69392

thanks. Very good article.

anon68091

good things.

anon67931

I'm sorry, but University of Phoenix facilitators, nor electronic readings broke this subject down like this. Thank you so much for distinguishing the differences between the two, because i was struggling. Great job! you rock!

anon60137

the concept of team (i.e. team work in factories) is a socialist concept, strange for capitalist societies (western societies), but any way they exploited that concept very well. GonzaloLinan

anon58826

Very clear and concise. (straight to the point) Thank you.

anon56434

very good article.

anon54576

Good article!

anon51196

This is a good article on groups & teams. Simple and elegant. -Prof Sharma

anon48958

awesome article!

anon47885

I am also a UOP student, and disagree with the previous comments. The powerpoint and books provided by UOP almost identical to this information. (message to the UOP students, please pay attention in class.) Thank you website! You have been very helpful.

anon45394

awesome definition of group and team. nice!

anon44867

good article and easy to understand.

anon42911

Really good article with good example. easy to understand.

anon42824

Good article with relevant illustrations.

anon42517

A very good article that clearly distinguishes between team and group. My doubts got clarified. Thanks!

anon42054

great article with great examples.

anon40618

Great example using the trial jury. I am also a UOP student and I agree with the previous post.

anon39369

I have been reading several books recommended by the University of Phoenix in regards to this subject. Not one of the books listed explained the answer to this question as well as your explanation. Thanks a million.

anon38767

I have liked the article so much. It is so sensible and has gotten me what I wanted. Big up. -- Kagoye Geofrey

anon28582

Very good article.

anon24787

awesome approach to distinguish group and a team. best article in the world on this topic.

anon24617

This is really perfect. Thanks for posting this article.

anon4811

awesome article. most organizational behavior books don't make a decent distinction.

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    • An accident investigation team might consist of many specialists working together.
      An accident investigation team might consist of many specialists working together.
    • Trial juries are an example of a group that is created with a particular task to perform.
      Trial juries are an example of a group that is created with a particular task to perform.
    • Teamwork may be required in a variety of fields to produce better results.
      Teamwork may be required in a variety of fields to produce better results.
    • Team building is often a key component of a corporation.
      Team building is often a key component of a corporation.
    • The success of a group is often measured by its final results.
      The success of a group is often measured by its final results.