Teamistry Season 2 Episode 03

Mission Impossible: The Thai Cave Rescue

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In the summer of 2018, twelve Thai teenagers from a soccer team and their 25-year-old coach got stuck deep inside the labyrinthine – and flooding – Tham Luang caves of Thailand’s Chiang Rai province. Missing for over a week, the team was feared dead until they were found by a British cave diver, one of few experts in the world.

Weary but alive, the boys’ calm demeanor gave people hope but their discovery also signaled the beginning of a frenzied, complicated, and nearly impossible rescue mission. In this episode of Teamistry, host Gabriela Cowperthwaite takes us inside the caves and alongside the people assembled from across Thailand and the world to work together on this dire operation. This included Thai Navy Seals, British cave divers, members of the U.S. Air Force, doctors, engineers, and countless volunteers, all who worked against the clock to retrieve each individual safely. Hour after hour, as the caves continued to flood and oxygen tanks ran low, we learn about the leadership and teamwork that enabled these disparate groups to remain synchronized, overcome cultural barriers, and make difficult, life-or-death decisions. We hear from Narongsak Osottanakorn, the former Governor of Chiang Rai province, who marshaled the various teams and became a national hero. Lt. Col. Charles Hodges of the U.S. Air Force talks about his role in getting teams to communicate effectively, and Dr. Richard Harris, an anesthesiologist from Australia, describes his climactic moments while inside the caves with the boys. We also hear from Wharton Professor Michael Useem, who offers insight into the leadership techniques that propelled the successful mission. And Richard Lloyd Parry, Asia Editor of The Times of London, revisits his daily on-the-ground reporting to tell us how the rescue unfolded.

Teamistry is an original podcast from Atlassian.


It’s the night of July 2, 2018 and everybody has pretty much run out of hope.

It’s now over a week since 12 teenaged soccer players and their coach went missing in the twisting, flooded Tham Luang caves of Thailand’s Chiang Rai province. The boys’ bikes had been found at the entrance of the caves, which wind for six long miles beneath the Doi Nang Non mountain range. But other than that, there’s no sign of the Wild Boars, as their team is called.

Thousands of people are gathered outside of the cave. Parents, government officials, Thai Navy SEALs, expert cave divers flown in from the UK. Even members of the Thai royal kitchen are on hand to feed the volunteers. And everyone fears for the worst. The idea that the boys are still alive just seems impossible to entertain. It’s agonizing.

But then, something incredible happens.

Rick Stanton and John Volanthen, two of those British divers, swim three miles deep into the cave, squeezing through passages so tight that they can only fit by taking off their oxygen tanks. They’re hoping to find some clue to where the kids had ended up—or more likely, their remains.
But, surfacing in a pocket of air, they find something else. On a steep, muddy ledge, they discover a group of boys in maroon soccer jerseys, tired, scared and rail-thin. But alive.

Richard Lloyd Parry
One of the most amazing moments in all this was the film that was shot by the two British divers.

That’s Richard Lloyd Parry. He’s the Asia editor of the Times of London, and he was there in Chiang Rai while all this was happening. He’s talking about a video recorded by one of the divers, on their helmet camera.

On the video, you can hear John Volanthen yell “How many are you?” “13!” one of the boys calls back. “Brilliant!” the diver replies, and you can hear the surprise, relief and excitement in his voice. But the boys themselves seem strangely relaxed.

Richard Lloyd Parry
These boys on film are perfectly calm. You see them just sitting there quietly.

That’s because their coach, a former Buddhist monk, has taught them meditation techniques to endure the darkness and their own fear. And it might have just saved their lives.

Keeping the Wild Boars alive, and then finding them, are inspired acts of teamwork. But discovering the Wild Boars is just the beginning. Now, they’re going to need a much larger act of teamwork to get them out safe. One literally involving thousands of people who’ve gathered from around the world to help.

To save the boys in this race against time, this “team of teams” is going to need to sift through disparate information and prioritize which messages need to be communicated with which teams. And they’ll have to do so not just across cultural and language barriers, but in an dangerous underground environment where communication is nearly impossible.

And there’s no guarantee they’re going to be successful.

I’m Gabriela Cowperthwaite and this is Teamistry — an original podcast from Atlassian. This show is all about the chemistry of teams – proving that when teams work together, and teams of teams work together, they can achieve far more than they ever thought possible.

To understand just how the Wild Boars got themselves into such a predicament, you have to understand the caves themselves. Huge cave systems like Tham Luang are common in Thailand, and they’re steeped in folklore. Narongsak Osottanakorn was the governor of Chiang Rai province when this happened and he explains that there’s this legend about a princess…

Governor Narongsak:
So they have something like a legend that told us that a princess on Myanmar. There, she get in love with a guy, but her father don’t like it.

Here’s Richard Lloyd Parry again telling the whole story.

Richard Lloyd Parry
The full name of it is, Tham Luang Nang Non, which I was told means caves of the reclining big lady. And the story is one of a princess from across the border in Burma, in Myanmar, which is just a few miles away, who long ago, in mythological times, fell in love with a stable boy and became pregnant by him. The two lovers fled from the anger of her father, the King and the King in his fury, sent soldiers after them who killed the boy. And the princess in grief for the boy killed herself with her own hair pin. And in death, she became this hillside and the caves are her body. So, the mythical belief is that in going into this cave, you’re not just going into a mountain. You’re going into the kind of petrified body of this ancient princess.

And like the human body, the cave system has endless veins, arteries and hollows that are incredibly complex and difficult to map.

After soccer practice one day, the boys and their coach head on their bikes to the caves to explore. They’d been there many times before. They even had a ritual where they’d wander miles deep into the caves to write the names of new players on a wall. But for a large portion of the year, these caves fill with floodwater, making them pretty much inaccessible. It’s late June when this happens, not quite monsoon season yet, but it’s been raining for days.

The boys and their coach are miles underground when the waters start to rise. They realize they can’t turn back and return the way they came. So they keep moving forward, and eventually find themselves stranded on a small, rocky ledge. They have barely any food. No cell phone service, no GPS, no way to communicate with the outside world. And then, when their flashlight batteries die, they also have no light. There’s nothing they can do but wait, and hope.

All they have is a pocket of stale air and each other. Briefly, they sustain themselves on the meagre snacks they brought along, but those quickly run out. For water, they lick condensation off the walls. But together they manage to keep themselves alive. And outside the caves, the world is only just starting to realize that something is wrong.

How to get a dozen boys and their soccer coach out safely. That’s the burning question after the group was found alive after being trapped inside a flooded cave in Thailand for ten days.

When the group of boys, aged 11 to 16, and their coach, who’s 25, don’t return home that night, their family members start to wonder where they are…and worry. They check the cave entrance first, where they find the boys’ bikes. When the gravity of the situation becomes fully apparent, then the authorities take over. Headed by Governor Naronsak, who at the time, is the outgoing governor of Chiang Rai.

Richard Lloyd Parry
He had actually been recently sacked from his job as governor of that province because many people say he was the kind of man who rather than just towing the line, asked difficult questions. And for his pains, powerful people had had him pushed out, but he still had two weeks to go. He wasn’t an obvious, heroic or glamorous figure. But he was just a personable man. He was very warm. He was optimistic. And it’s impossible to know, but I have a feeling that if it had been a more conventional bureaucrat who had been in charge, a less imaginative and less dynamic person, it might not have had the outcome that it did.

It’s Govenor Narongsak who assembles and manages an unruly team of experts from all over the world to carry out the search for the boys and their coach and the eventual rescue attempt.

Over 10,000 people show up, including more than 2,000 soldiers, close to a thousand police officers, representatives of dozens of government agencies and 100 trained divers. Many are Thai, but experts fly in from all over—Australia, the UK and elsewhere. Managing these thousands of people in the muddy surroundings of the impromptu village that sprung up around the caves is a leadership challenge to say the least. It could all descend into chaos.

Michael Useem
We have people who are experts on hydraulics and getting water out of the cave. We have a medical staff that is there. And the job of the now former governor of that particular province is to put the teams to work as a team of teams, easier said than done.

This is Michael Useem. He’s a professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, and he’s spent his career studying events like this, trying to figure out what makes for successful leadership in moments of crisis.

Luckily, Governor Narongsak turns out to have the unique talent of managing multiple self-contained units, each with their own agendas and priorities. One way he does this is to have a clear path of leadership and delegation, inspired by Thailand’s State of Emergency laws.

Governor Narongsak:
We have the emergency situation law that say that “The governor of the province will be in charge of the commander.” And when you call the team outside of the province and come from all over the world, we have to set up the team and dedicate the task. For the diver and for the pump and the irrigation, everything, we have a team. And I delegate the task force to each team.

In other words, like how Governor Narongsak becomes the commander of the operation because of that State of Emergency law, each team must have its own commander. That way, he can delegate responsibilities to each team and not have to manage all the details himself.

This also lays down the framework he needs to communicate with all these teams. And that’s what Professor Useem has found, that for a group like this to be able to work together, whoever is in charge must be constantly communicating the group’s common goal and strategy. Maintaining a strong chain of communication, from himself to the team leaders, to the team members. His opening speech is the first of these “all team” messages.

Michael Useem
The governor said, “If we’re going to be here, we’ve got to be ready for the personal sacrifice. We’re away from family, we’re away from Bangkok where many had come from. A number of British divers came in from the UK. Onset of the monsoon. It’s in Northern Thailand, a very remote area. So this is not going to be at a five-star hotel. It’s not going to be a happy period. And thus, if you’re equivocal about this, just let me know with all due respect, we’ll let you head on home.

Governor Narongsak:
Maybe you leave your life in the cave. So, if you don’t want to work in the cave, you can leave.

Michael Useem
That’s a way of saying effective, persuasive communication when you’re in a leadership position is absolutely essential. Or to put that a little differently, when it comes to saying purpose and strategy there is no such thing as saying both too often.

And that is exactly Governor Narongsak’s approach.

Governor Narongsak:
we have the meeting. Especially, twice or three times a day. By bring the leader of each team in the meeting, and we will talking about How about the last night? What did you do? And what are the problem you’re facing? If some team have no problem, they can get out of the meeting and work continuously. But if some team have some problem, they will say and we try everything to help them.

These meetings, two or three times a day between all the team leaders, act as check-ins to see who needs help and who doesn’t. And to establish a decision-making framework. Issues that impact more than a single team go to the group, to be decided on by the team leaders. Individual teams have the autonomy to make decisions for themselves on matters that relate to their own teams.

The first of those teams to be called in are the elite Thai Navy SEAL diving unit. They dive deep into the caves, but even they can only swim so far before strong currents push them back. These are highly skilled divers, but they’ve got very little experience in caves.

So the team looks to the U.K., which has a long history of cave diving. Here’s Times of London’s Richard Lloyd Parry again:

Richard Lloyd Parry
The rescuers were put in touch with these two men in particular, Richard Stanson and John Volanthen, who in the world of caving are gods, well known for their expertise and skill. And they flew straight over and applied their expertise. And it was those two divers, eventually, a few days later, who made contact with the boys.

It is an incredible discovery. Most experts don’t expect to find the boys and their coach alive, and certainly not all in the same place. The fact that they’ve survived is nothing short of a miracle. Now, the real rescue effort can begin. But everyone is aware that they are desperately low on time. Oxygen levels in the pocket of air are falling, and the caves could flood again at any moment. A plan is needed, and it’s needed now.

Officials are now focusing on four rescue plans. The first is to pump water out of the cave system so the kids can leave the same way they came in. The second option is riskier, it’s teaching them how to use scuba gear. Now, the other option is to wait out the monsoon but that could take four months. And then there’s a fourth option. It’s scouring the cave system to figure out a way to drill in to pull the kids out.

Lt. Col. Charles Hodges
The first time that I heard about the boys in the cave was like most people, it was just a news article that said that there is a soccer team that had gone missing.

This is Lieutenant Colonel Charles Hodges. At the time, he’s the commander of the 320th Special Tactics Squadron stationed at Kadena Air Base in Japan.

Lt. Col. Charles Hodges
My operations officer called me about 5:45 in the morning or so and said, “It sounds like we might be the ones they assign to go out there and do that.”

Hodges and his team arrive at the crowded, muddy camp to serve in an advisory capacity, offering their expertise in disaster situations to the Thai authorities. Lt. Col. Hodges quickly sees that despite the governor’s decision-making framework, there’s still a lot of miscommunication and wasted effort. That’s the challenge with a team of teams. You can have the best teams in the world working on a project, but if they don’t communicate with each other, they’re not going to get anywhere. Take the plan to drill a hole through the mountain to where the boys and their coach were sheltering. There’s two teams of workers assigned to the problem, the engineers and the drillers. The problem is, they’re not talking to each other.

Lt. Col. Charles Hodges
The engineers are trying to figure out where’s the best place to drill, but the drillers were just going to different places and randomly drilling. And we thought we’ve got to pair these guys up. And so, I went to the engineers and told them “Hey, I need you to be at the Buddhist temple at seven o’clock tonight.” Then I go to the drillers and I tell the drillers, “I need you guys to come to the temple tonight at seven o’clock to come to decide where we’re going to drill next.” And so then at seven o’clock that night, they both show up, even though they weren’t working together previously, they both show up and I basically just say, “You guys start talking together.” And then I just left the meeting. And then the next day, all of them are working together.

This is a simplified example of the bigger teamwork challenge that this rescue hinges upon:
creating a communication system among disparate but interconnected units, a way for teams to get only the critical information they need from each other so as not to waste time.

All the while, though, the clock keeps ticking. It must have been so frustrating to know that the boys were so close at hand, but at the same time, so difficult to reach. And then, tragedy strikes.

Despite the hazardous conditions, divers are going back and forth to where the Wild Boars are trapped, delivering food and supplies. Saman Kunan is one of those divers. He’s a 38-year-old former Thai Navy SEAL who showed up in Chiang Rai to volunteer for the rescue when he heard about the crisis.

On July 5th he’s on a routine dive to deliver air tanks when he loses consciousness underwater. His dive partner does everything he can to save him, pulling him out of the water and performing CPR, but tragically, Kunan doesn’t survive. The stakes are already so high. Everyone wants to believe the boys and their coach can be rescued safely. But if a highly-trained veteran diver can’t survive a routine trip through the caves, what hope do these young people have?

The death of Saman Kunan jolts the entire team. And with oxygen levels in the cavern dropping rapidly, everyone knows the time has come to act.

Richard Harris
The forecast was saying that within three to four to five days the monsoon rains would return in earnest and once they did it would completely overwhelm any of the pumping operations and that would be the end of any possibility of getting the kids out, so the clock was really ticking at that point.

This is Richard Harris. He’s an Australian cave diver and anesthetist who was called in to help with the rescue. He’s one of the few people in the world with actual experience performing medicine in a cave diving situation—in other words, exactly the kind of person you want on this team.

The British divers have come up with a plan. Not a safe plan—in fact, a terrifyingly risky one. But they’re convinced it’s the only possible way to get the teenagers out alive. First, they want to put the kids in wetsuits and scuba gear. Then, Dr. Harris will sedate them so that divers can safely pull them through the caves and out of the water. There are just so many things that can go wrong.

Dr. Harris needs to know if the boys and their coach, in their weakened state, are physically and psychologically capable of handling it. So he makes the arduous three-hour-dive to get to the trapped team, where he explains the plan.

Richard Harris
But then I was also looking at the faces of the boys of course and to a boy, they all were just sort of nodding. “Yep, no worries. That all sounds fine.” I can’t believe how relaxed they seem about it all. So that was the first hurdle for me was to just present this plan to these kids and I have to say, it did give me the courage to go on seeing their response.

The next big challenge is selling the plan to the Thai authorities. And there they run up against a cultural problem. To call this plan dangerous is an understatement. And it is very, very hard for the Thai authorities to sign off on a rescue attempt with any level of risk. Charles Hodges, the American officer, explains.

Lt. Col. Charles Hodges
We had to approach it from a very sensitive perspective and try to understand their mindset on this. And when I started to realize, okay, Thai culture is a shame-based culture where there is not a lot of forgiveness when it comes to making mistakes. And in their culture they highly value their children. Worldwide that’s kind of a common theme, everybody loves their kids and everybody wants to take care of them. But from the Thai cultural standpoint, that’s one reason they weren’t willing to accept any sort of risk.

When teams from different cultures work together, conflicting values can get in the way of their common goals. What Hodges very smartly realizes is that those differences aren’t necessarily a barrier, but just another problem to solve.

Lt. Col. Charles Hodges:
I think that was a huge part of our success, was just being able to talk to the Thai and understand that just because we don’t necessarily understand what’s going on, doesn’t mean that the Thai are approaching it the wrong way.

Despite the crisis communications framework that has been driving the operation so far, when it comes to sharing only critical information with interconnected team units, the Thai hierarchical system kicks in, and the need-to-know basis extends beyond their usual message recipients.

Lt. Col. Charles Hodges:
You had to go all the way up to the Thai Minister of the Interior to say, “Yes, go and execute this mission.” Nobody beneath him was willing to take the responsibility. And I don’t say that in a negative way, it’s just an aspect of their culture and we just need to figure out how they’re approaching it and then get inside their decision process and then advise them from that perspective.

And so, to get a sign-off on the rescue plan, he’ll have to go above Governor Narongsak and take it to the very top level of the power structure. That means pitching the Thai Minister of the Interior himself, in a tense all-night session.

Lt. Col. Charles Hodges
And then I had Master Sergeant Derek Anderson give the overview, the nuts and bolts of exactly how we were going to do it, of going into the cave and where we are going to station tanks and where we were going to have rope systems and how we were going to communicate from chamber three, back. And from that perspective, I think that’s where we were most advantageous to the Thai, was we laid out this whole plan and just explained, “You have no other option. If you don’t do this right now, those kids are going to be stuck in there for at least four or five months.”

Dr. Harris is in that meeting, to explain the medical case for the rescue plan.

Richard Harris
Everyone got their turn to speak. The cave rescue people, the medical people, the Thai Navy SEALs rear admiral was there, and then finally all eyes are on me, the doctor at the pointy end who actually has to give this anesthetic, and I was asked the question, “What’s the chances of this working?”

And this is where it gets complicated. In the past, Dr. Harris had tried to test this kind of sedation in controlled diving situations. But he was never successful. The test subject’s mask would always fill up with water, which in a real-life rescue would be disastrous. But the alternative, to let the boys asphyxiate or starve to death, seemed even worse.

Richard Harris
I found myself in a moral dilemma at that point, because I had decided in my own mind that this would not work but that I was going to do it, but I was worried that if I spoke my mind and said, “This 100% will not work,” then they wouldn’t allow it to proceed. So I reframed my answer by saying something like, “This is very high risk but I’m prepared to do it.” Something like that. Something vague enough to hopefully give them the courage to make the decision to allow it to happen.

Lt. Col. Hodges:
And I think they needed to hear that from someone that was not Thai, because they were so close to the situation that I think they were having some challenges thinking logically about that. I remember talking to the Minister of the Interior afterwards and he told me, “Yeah, it’s very hard for us to make a decision on this.”

After the plan is pitched, everyone goes to bed unsure of what’s going to happen next. Outside in the camp, most observers have no idea of the high-stakes discussions taking place. All anybody knows is that the monsoon rains are expected any day now. Once they start, any attempt at rescue would be impossible.

Then, the next morning, on Sunday, July 7th, Governor Narongsak appears. Times of London reporter Richard Lloyd Parry describes the scene.

Richard Lloyd Parry
Mr. Narongsak appeared before the media at this makeshift press center, stood up and put it in the most dramatic terms. He said, “We’ve been preparing for many days, we’re ready. The operation team has confirmed that it’d start to bring the children out. We are at the beginning of our D-day.”

Dr. Harris and four of the most experienced British divers immediately suit up and begin making the long, dark, terrifying journey through the caves to Chamber Nine, where the Wild Boars have been for weeks. And here’s where the constant communication the teams have relied upon can no longer operate. Once deep into the caves, there is no way Dr. Harris will be able to communicate with the rest of the divers or anyone else for that matter. He will be working blind, and will have to rely on each team member doing their part in the overall plan.

Thankfully, they have been doing this all along.

Richard Harris
We were autonomous within our diving group from our point of view. Any decisions relating to safety or diving operations we were making within our group, and then we would tell people what we were prepared or not prepared to do.

This is the moment where the entire diving team will have to rely on the over-communication of strategy and purpose, the minute details and plans.

Now, news reports have tended to downplay what happens next. That’s because, honestly, it’s a little hard to imagine. Initial reports said that the soccer team was sedated. But that doesn’t quite paint the whole picture.

One by one, each boy has to be anesthetized with a mixture of ketamine and other sedatives, so that they’re completely unconscious. Then, their ankles are tied together and their wrists bound behind their backs.That’s because if the anesthetic wears off, they might struggle and pull off their face masks, or otherwise endanger themselves or the rescuers.

The process sounds absolutely harrowing. And all the while, there’s no guarantee the plan will succeed.

Richard Harris
I actually thought I was probably euthanizing these boys. And people have said to me, “Well surely you can’t have really believed that it wasn’t going to work, because you couldn’t possibly have proceeded with it.” And I think the only way I found the courage to do it was that the alternative just seemed to be worse, and that is to walk away from these kids and leave them to die a very horrible death in the cave. It would have taken weeks I’m sure for them to perish from either starvation or exposure or infection, or all three at some point.

One at a time, the boys are wet-suited-up, anesthetized, and tied. Dr. Harris even has to plunge their heads underwater for 30 seconds to make sure they can still breathe, which is even more nightmarish. And then, when he’s reasonably sure that the masks and equipment are secure, the boys are handed off to the divers, who relay them through the miles-long, three to four hour journey through the caves.

Close to 100 divers participate in the grueling effort. First, they navigate the unconscious boys through horrifically cold water, pulling them through spaces so tight that at points they have to remove their own air tanks. Then, the still-unconscious teenagers were placed on stretchers and carried the rest of the way, at times pulled up steep slopes using pulleys. All in the damp, dangerous darkness of the caves. It takes so long that they can only bring out four of them on the first day. With no way to communicate what’s going on, back in Chamber Nine as he works all day, Dr. Harris has no idea if the boys have even survived. Without contact with the outside teams, he must focus on his part of the mission, and do it to the best of his abilities. Unsure if he’s contributing to success or a tragic failure. Finally, he makes the lonely swim back out of the caves.

Richard Harris
So that was a long swim home by yourself with your own thoughts wondering if any of them had gotten out alive. Suddenly your face is out of the water and you go, “Oh right, I’m here.” And this nice big American Air Force man patting you on the shoulder saying, “You alright, Doc?” And I go, “Yeah, yeah. How did we go?” And he said, “Four out of four.” And I, in my pessimistic thought processes assumed he meant all four had died. I went, “Oh, well. I guess I expected that.” And he realized what I was thinking, and he said, “No, no. Four out of four. They’re all alive.” So I went, “Oh, okay. Well that’s pretty amazing.”

But with nine more to rescue, the team can’t afford to relax. Over the next two grueling days, the rescuers bring the boys and finally their coach, out of the caverns. One by one, each is loaded onto an ambulance and spirited away to safety. And then, right as success is just within reach, at the very last minute, things almost go completely wrong. Richard Lloyd Parry describes it:

Richard Lloyd Parry
At the very end was a great drama. The pumps, which had been clearing a lot of the water out of these staging areas in the cave, failed. And there was a surge of water just as the last of the boys and the coach were being brought out.

Water pours into the cavern. Any sooner and it could have been absolutely devastating. But luckily, the rescuers are able to get clear in time and no one is hurt.

Richard Lloyd Parry
One of the people involved told me later that it was almost as if the goddess of the cave had lost her patience and was saying, you’ve had your chance now, you’ve got them all out, now the caves belong to me again.

I’m a mom myself. I have two boys the same age as some of those kids. I was a shambles reading about the rescue as it happened. As it all played out, I just wanted to see their faces.

Nothing like getting good news. And you don’t need a translator to understand just the joy radiating from Thailand today after all twelve boys and their coach were rescued from a flooded cave.

The boys have done well since the rescue. They’re minor celebrities in their home country. Some want to become pro soccer players, and a few have expressed a desire to join the Thai Navy SEALs. Near the cave, there’s a memorial center, named after Saman Kunan, the brave ex-SEAL who died in the attempt. The boys gather there sometimes, to pay homage to a man who they describe as being like a father to them.

For Governor Narongsak, the end of this ordeal reminded him of a Thai saying.

Governor Narongsak
like you bring the mountain off your shoulder.

Getting that mountain off their shoulders required incredible cooperation and communication, driven by a framework for what to share and with whom. Governor Narongsak says that that framework played out so well because of one thing.

Governor Narongsak
you have to trust in them and trust every leader. I didn’t ask them, “What you do? What you told your staff?” I didn’t ask anyone something like that. But when they told me that the next day, “We will work like this,” I believed in them and I believed that they will finish that task. The key word is trust.

Coordinating a raucous group of volunteers and experts from around the world who had never worked together would be difficult enough, but when the goal itself seems as unreachable as the Wild Boars were in those caves—that’s teamwork at its most inspiring. Here’s University of Pennsylvania professor and leadership expert Michael Useem again.

Michael Useem
The scale of the rescue in Thailand exceeds by far what any one person can do to achieve the right kind of end. You’ve got to step back. You’ve got to tell yourself that you have an historic role to play, an important commitment to execute. You cannot do it yourself.

By repeatedly communicating one shared goal and prioritizing which people needed to be part of discussions to make decisions towards that goal, this disparate team of teams became an interconnected lifeline.

To find out more about those teamwork lessons, check out atlassian dot com slash Teamistry. On our next episode, we learn how international teams of biologists, data scientists, facial recognition experts and engaged citizens are using artificial intelligence to save endangered species. That’s next time on Teamistry, an original podcast from Atlassian. Thanks for listening

…ok, having two twin 14 year old boys right now, and trying to narrate this? My Garmin just, my Garmin watch just told me “you need to breathe…”