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Meredith Belbin celebrates his birthday this month, Debbie Carter takes a look at his life and work


he father of team roles is in good company this year as, along with David

Attenborough and the Queen, he celebrates his 90th birthday. Indeed during his university days he rowed and played rugby with Attenborough at Clare College, Cambridge. Belbin, born Raymond Meredith,

has an extraordinary intelligence and is without doubt, according to his team roles, a Plant – innovative, unorthodox and a generator of ideas. He received glowing reports from his grammar school headmaster although he maintained that his belief in playing to one’s strength came from his poor performance in Mathematics which was off-set by his excellence in Latin. He is still the Classics scholar and relishes reeling off the names of his plants in Latin while showing visitors around his garden on open days. Belbin went up to Cambridge in 1945 to read Classics but switched

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to Psychology and completed the two-year course in 12 months. During this period he met his future wife, Eunice who was also a psychology student at Girton College. On leaving Cambridge the Belbins

moved into the world of training, development and occupational Psychol- ogy. Eunice was working as a director at the Industrial Training Research Unit (ITRU), a government-funded body set up as a result of the Industrial Training Act. Belbin combined his work at Cranfield with consultancy for the Organisation for Economic Co-op- eration and Development (OECD). While working at the ITRU, Belbin was invited to carry out research at what was then called the Administrative Staff College at Henley-on-Tames. Having an interest in group and individual behaviour, Meredith and Eunice, along other outstanding talents Bill Hartston, Jeanne Fisher and Roger Mottram,

He is still the Classics scholar and relishes reeling off the names of his plants in Latin while showing visitors around his garden on open days

began planning a research project to study management teams in action. Te team selected managers

from a number of organisations who completed a battery of psychometric tests, some well-known, others derived by Belbin himself. Te team conducted three business games a year, with eight teams in each game. During each game, observers methodically recorded different interactions and contribu- tions from the players, which were scrutinised and categorised afterwards. Te research formed the basis from which team role theory would spring. In 1981, Belbin expounded team

role theory in his seminal book, Management Teams: Why Tey Succeed or Fail. Te book was later named as one of the top 50 management books of all time. In 1993 Meredith published Team Roles at Work, which provided more practical applications for the theory in the workplace


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