university challenge

Does teamwork win out, or a one-person mind-machine?

Even if you don’t watch University Challenge, you probably noticed the show’s growing presence over the last few days.  This year’s final was broadcast on Monday and some people went crazy.  The reason?  Gail Trimble, of Corpus Christi College, Oxford.

The whole UK (it seems!) has been awash with hype on who is possibly the best single contestant University Challenge has seen.  Ms Trimble has become the topic of conversation rather than the whole team from Corpus Christi.

Trimble has divided the public.  Is she smug or sexy?  Tremendous or troublesome?  Awesome or awful?  Arrogant or affable?  Right down to the flick of her hair when she answers correctly, it seems that people have been obsessing in a way that’s not generally expected when it comes to University Challenge.


As for me, I wanted Manchester to win the final, because I have admired their fantastic teamwork over the course of the series.  They nearly crushed Corpus Christi (or the Trimble Treadmill), but a late surge from Corpus Christi was just too fast-paced for Manchester.  I didn’t feel that bad about the great comeback, because I would attribute much of it on Corpus Christi’s other team members, rather than Trimble alone.  Teamwork, ftw!

University Challenge is a team game, so I’m over the moon that Manchester got to the final and convincingly held their ground, despite losing in the end.  Even Corpus Christi gave a team effort when it mattered.

Here are 11 ways they managed it:

  1. Don’t dismiss ideas out of hand. Sometimes it takes crazy thinking to get the most out of a team.  Shut them up quickly and you shut them up for good.  What’s the point in that?
  2. Listen to everyone. Manchester’s team captain (Matthew Yeo) gave everyone an equal hearing.  It’s a team, after all.
  3. Don’t have favourite members. Just because you gel with someone and appreciate the ideas they have, now is not the time to limit your focus.  If you see further value in another person and you want to engage further with them, do that independently of the team you’re working in.
  4. Enjoy what you’re doing so you relax more. Life’s too short to take it that seriously.  Manchester would confer and, at the same time, have a laugh as they did it.  And as soon as Corpus Christi won University Challenge, Manchester applauded them.  That said, they were led by Henry Pertinez who, apparently, originally studied at Corpus Christi…!
  5. Debate in a friendly tone. Don’t just argue.
  6. Recognise each member’s strong points…
  7. …but don’t allow anything but definite knowledge to shut out people’s views. Someone else’s guess could be right.  University Challenge has proved that in the recent past, including when Gail Trimble disagreed with a team member’s correct answer and gave a wrong one instead (no disrespect to her teamwork, just a recent observation).
  8. Engage positively with all members. Congratulate them on the best answers/ideas.  Give credit where it’s due.  Encourage more participation.
  9. If applicable, don’t be afraid to ask for help outside the group. Sometimes you can all be at a loss.  It’s fine to be uncertain.  See if you can work together to find the best person to enlighten you all. [Note: That doesn’t work on University Challenge, but it’s something you should remember for your own team work.]
  10. Don’t hold a grudge. In University Challenge, there’s no time to get annoyed when someone interrupts and answers incorrectly.  Okay, they’ve lost the team 5 points, but the game goes on.  They will likely redeem themselves later and may have already been worth far more than 5 points anyway.  It’s the same elsewhere.  Even a couple of minor mistakes aren’t the end of the world.  Keep it in perspective.
  11. Lead…don’t command. A true leader is encouraging rather than pushy.  Get it wrong and people may not want to pull their weight.  What’s the point if they’re not going to feel rewarded in the process?

That’s teamwork…but how intelligent are the University Challenge contestants?  Just because Trimble answered so many questions correctly, University Challenge in general doesn’t test a person’s intelligence.  Trimble is clearly intelligent, but that’s not the point.  I enjoy seeing how many questions I get right each episode, but I don’t feel clever when I get a lot correct.  It’s just a good set of questions for me.  That’s why teamwork is the best thing to look for on a show like this.