Appropriate Disturbances: Team Development in Sports and Business


  • Kasper Pape Helligsøe
  • Rikke Rønnau
  • Peter Bredsdorff-Larsen



In this article, we will present an anthropological research project that explores possible benefits of comparing a professional handball club and a software company. More specifically, we turn our attention to the phenomenon of “disturbances.” In workplace contexts, disturbances are most often experienced as hindering focus and immersion, thus having a negative impact on job performance. However, by exploring everyday practices in the Danish professional handball club Bjerringbro-Silkeborg Handball, it becomes apparent that (former) head coach Peter Bredsdorff Larsen deliberately uses what he calls “appropriate disturbances” to provoke change and give direction to processes of team development. This causes us to ask one of the fundamental questions of our overall research project: what form would such appropriate disturbances take in a software company? In an effort to explore this question, we describe our experiments with the concept of “reflection time” as an appropriate disturbance to team development in the software company Systematic. We argue that such disturbances can create moments and spaces in which the potential for improvement and development emerges through a temporary destabilization of everyday life in the workplace.

Author Biographies

Kasper Pape Helligsøe

is a Ph.D. fellow at the Department of Anthropology, School of Culture and Society, Aarhus University. In his current project, he explores issues of leadership, team development, collaboration, and organizational culture through a comparison of a professional handball club and a software company in Denmark. In an effort to make key findings from this project accessible for wider application, he has, among other things, engaged in team trainings, inspirational talks, and podcast productions with his collaborative partners from the handball club and the software company.

Rikke Rønnau

is an HR business leader with experience from large international organizations. As a Chief People Officer, she has worked extensively with the development of people, leadership, and organizations at both strategic and conceptual levels. At a more hands-on level, she has run training and workshops with leaders and employees around feedback, collaboration, empowerment, and much more. She is passionate about contemporary HR concepts such as neuroscience, self-management, teal organizations, and regenerative leadership. Rikke has an MA in Psychology and an MSc. in Business Administration.

Peter Bredsdorff-Larsen

holds a Master in Learning and Organizational Coaching. As a professional handball coach, he has contributed as leader and coach to developing teams, organizations, and cultures that have delivered long-term top performances; for instance, successfully winning the first gold medals to the Danish National Team, Aalborg Handball, and Bjerringbro-Silkeborg Handball. Peter has a passion for developing cultures that give people, teams, and organizations the best possible conditions to succeed.


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