Do Teams Gel or Jell?

In my role as technical editor for, I have the opportunity to read many terrific articles. I also have the opportunity to review and comment on those articles.

One such comment is what do teams do? Do they “gel” or do they “jell”?

Gel is what you put in hair. When you “gel” things, you create a thick goo, like concrete. Teams are not a thick goo. Teams are flexible and responsive.

Jell is what you want teams to do. You want them firm, but not set in concrete. When teams jell, they might even jiggle a little. They wave. They adapt. They might even do a little dance, zigging here, zapping there.

You want to keep the people in the teams as much as possible, so you flow work through the teams. But you want the people in the teams to reconsider what they do on a regular basis. That's called retrospecting. People who have their feet in concrete don't retrospect. They are stuck. People who are flexible and responsive do.

So, think about whether you have a gelled or a jelled team. Maybe I'm being a nitpicker. I probably am. Our words mean something.

If you have an article you'd like to publish, send it to me. You and I will craft it into something great. Whether or not your team jells.


14 Replies to “Do Teams Gel or Jell?”

  1. What a great example about how words matter! I will now imagine people with slick hairdos when I think about a “gelled” team.

    1. Allison, thanks. I saw a guy with a very cool mohawk the other day. It was multiple colors and everything. That hair was not going to move. Talk about “gelled” 🙂

  2. Both words are derived from the same Latin word that gives us “gelatine” (“gelata”) and mean the same thing. “Jell” took a stop through “jelly” first, though, and swapped out it’s “g” for a “j” during the 1800s, while “gel” didn’t start getting used until about WWI.

    Whether one uses “jell” or “gel” typically indicates whether one has learned American or British English.

  3. Gel is fine too. Just as individual components come together to make gelatin, which is one cohesive unit, teams can do the same.

  4. OK, except…gelatin is flexible and so ‘gel’ makes sense. Concrete is not a thick goo. Concrete is a rock-like, solid material. Jell would come from jell-o which is a brand name of gelatin and a name, not a common use word.

    1. Adam, I’m delighted you a fellow word-picky-person! According to Wikipedia, a “gel” is a semi-solid. In contrast, Merriam-Webster says “jell” is to become cohesive.

      You don’t have to like these definitions. However “Jell” is not just from Jell-o (which is a brand name so we should capitalize it). Jell is a verb in its own right. (I don’t know if that company meant cohesiveness or not.

      When I talk about teams with the word, “jell,” I do mean cohesiveness.

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