Meredith Belbin biography and books

Meredith Belbin - Toolshero

Dr. Meredith Belbin (1926) is a British researcher best known for his ground breaking research in the field of team effectiveness. He is a Professor and researcher at Henley Business School in Oxfordshire, England. Meredith Belbin became world wide famous with Team Roles theory.

Meredith Belbin biography

Belbin’s early years

At the outbreak of the Second World War, Meredith Belbin was thirteen years old. With his family, he lived in an area that later became known as Bomb Alley, in Sevenoaks. He, along with his mother and sisters, refused to leave the area during an evacuation.

He was keen to complete his schooling at the Royal Grammar School in High Wycombe. He received excellent marks from the headmaster there.

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Meredith later suggested that it is best for team members to use and develop their strengths as much as possible, something that he already experienced during this school period: his poor understanding of mathematics was softened by his excellence in Latin.

Study time

Meredith Belbin graduated in major classical languages and psychology from Clare College, part of Cambridge University.

However, this was not as it always went. In the time of the war, 1945, it was difficult to get a place in universities like Cambridge University or Oxford University. Nevertheless, Meredith managed to gain admission with an essay to study classical languages at Clare College, Cambridge.

After some time, Meredith had had enough of the study. He started reading up on other subjects and hid in the university library for hours at a time. He read about economics, anthropology and a variety of other disciplines, but eventually chose psychology.

He completed the two-year course in one year and also met Eunice during this time. Eunice would later become Meredith’s wife. To attract her attention, Meredith played a tennis match with her, he later recounted. A year later, the two married. A little while later, he began his doctorate, focusing on psychology within the industry sector.

Research and development of the Belbin Team Roles theory

After having done research in the industrial sector, dr. Meredith Belbin joined the Industrial Training Research Unit (ITRU). Later Meredith Belbin became chairman of the ITRU and combined this job with a consultancy position for the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

In the 1960s Meredith Belbin carried out research at Henley Management College. Fascinated by people’s performance in combination with group as well as individual behaviour, Meredith Belbin asked three fellow scholars to carry out research into the effectiveness within management teams from different perspectives. These three fellow scholars were Bill Hartston (a mathematician), international chess master Jeanne Fisher (an anthropologist) and Roger Mottram (an organizational psychologist).

The research took seven years and each year three business games were organized in which eight teams participated in role plays. These role plays were based on certain organizational situations. Before the start of a role play, each participant was asked to complete a number of psychological tests.

Participants were observed during the role plays and their behaviour was recorded and categorized. In the course of time, based on the results of management games, predictions could be made which team would win the game based on a certain team composition.

This research became the basis for the classical book Management Teams (1981). One of the most important conclusions of the research was the proposition that an effective team has members that cover nine classic team roles.

In 1981 the basis was formed by eight team roles and at a later stage the role of ‘specialist’ was added. The theory became known as the team role theory.

The nine team roles are: Co-ordinators, Resource investigators, Plants, Monitor evaluators, Shapers, Implementers, Completer finishers, Team workers and Specialists. Read the full article on the Belbin Team Roles theory.

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Famous quotes

  1. “Do you want a collection of brilliant minds or a brilliant collection of minds?”
  2. “A team is not a bunch of people with job titles, but a congregation of individuals, each of whom has a role that is understood by other members.”
  3. “What is needed is not well balanced individuals, but individuals who balance well with each other.”
  4. “The benefit of utilising and understanding Team Roles is that not only do we learn more about ourselves, but also a lot about our work colleagues and how to get the best out of them.”
  5. “Nobody is perfect but a team can be.”
  6. “Good ideas, as we have seen, are not always well received, especially if there are too many of them.”
  7. “Self knowledge is heightened by understanding the views of others.”

Publications and books by Meredith Belbin et al.

  • 2013. Changing the Way We Work. Routledge.
  • 2012. Beyond the Team Routledge.
  • 2011. Business: The Ultimate Resource. A&C Black Business Information and Development.
  • 2011. Good Small Business Guide 2011: How to start and grow your own business. A&C Black Business Information and Development.
  • 2010, 1993. Team Roles at Work. Routledge.
  • 2009. The Belbin Guide to Succeeding at Work. A&C Black Business Information and Development.
  • 2003, 1996. Management Teams: Why They Succeed or Fail. A Butterworth-Heinemann Title.
  • 2001. Managing without power: Gender relationships in the story of human evolution. Routledge.
  • 1999. Improving the job.
  • 1998. The Coming Shape of Organization. Routledge.
  • 1996. Team roles and a self-perception inventory.
  • 1993. A reply to the Belbin Team‐Role Self‐Perception Inventory by Furnham, Steele and Pendleton. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 66(3), 259-260.
  • 1991. Design Innovation and the TEAM. Design Management Journal (Former Series), 2(3), 38-42.
  • 1972. Problems in adult retraining. Heinemann.
  • 1972. Retirement strategy in an evolving society. Behavioral Publications.
  • 1970. Inspection and human efficiency. Applied Ergonomics, 1(5), 289-294.
  • 1969. The Discovery Method in Training.
  • 1965. Training methods for older workers.

How to cite this article:
Van Vliet, V. (2012). Meredith Belbin. Retrieved [insert date] from Toolshero:

Published on: 07/17/2012 | Last update: 04/17/2023

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Vincent van Vliet
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Vincent van Vliet

Vincent van Vliet is co-founder and responsible for the content and release management. Together with the team Vincent sets the strategy and manages the content planning, go-to-market, customer experience and corporate development aspects of the company.


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