(The internet runs on cats)
Today the New York Times has an interesting article on "The Rise of the New Groupthink," which is the emphasis on teamwork over the individual. The author is interested in how introverts operate in environments dominated by groupthink like brainstorming sessions and open offices. Anecdotally, some of the most successful inventors are introverts, so it's important to keep them happy and productive. And empirically,
Decades of research show that individuals almost always perform better than groups in both quality and quantity, and group performance gets worse as group size increases. The “evidence from science suggests that business people must be insane to use brainstorming groups,” wrote the organizational psychologist Adrian Furnham. “If you have talented and motivated people, they should be encouraged to work alone when creativity or efficiency is the highest priority.” (source)From personal experience, I have mixed feelings about groups. From my years working in environmental advocacy, I gained inspiration and a feeling of solidarity with my cohorts. But nearly every class project I'm part of, I feel that I'm held back by my teammates. Even if I end up doing less work, I somehow rationalize that it's because I couldn't go the direction I wanted to, or that my ideas clashed too much with others in the group. Two endeavors that I'm really excited about right now are the graduate group I'm part of, GISER, and a graduate student conference I'm helping organize. These groups work well because the leadership committees are experienced at organizing, and good at utilize everyone's unique skills without putting too much responsibility on one person. I could write an entire blog post on this, but three things that are crucial to effective leadership groups are transparency, delegation, and accountability.
I also think about my future as a scholar, and the importance of collaboration. Within my graduate program we have a good mix of group projects and individual nurturing, but my dissertation project will largely independent. My job working with MSU Extension for the past two summers was also a good mix of teamwork and independence. I tend to generate and refine ideas better during conversation (I think this means I'm an extrovert), but I carry them out better on my own. And while interdisciplinary collaboration may just be a buzzword to some,
Recent studies suggest that influential academic work is increasingly conducted by teams rather than by individuals. (Although teams whose members collaborate remotely, from separate universities, appear to be the most influential of all.) The problems we face in science, economics and many other fields are more complex than ever before, and we’ll need to stand on one another’s shoulders if we can possibly hope to solve them. (source)In our world of post-normal science and wicked problems, teamwork is key.