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Forget Collaboration – Individuals are More Creative than Groups

February 6th, 2012 · No Comments · Collaboration

Big Ideas:

  • Individuals perform better than groups in quantity and quality of ideas.
  • The larger the group, the more they are susceptible to group think.

Shared work environments and collaboration are all the rage, but are they helping or harming business creativity?

I have written recently about why collaboration fails, but it turns out we may actually be more creative individually than in groups. Here are a couple of quotes from the fascinating New York Times article, The Rise of the New Group Think.

 

Research strongly suggests that people are more creative when they enjoy privacy and freedom from interruption. And the most spectacularly creative people in many fields are often introverted, according to studies by the psychologists Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Gregory Feist. They’re extroverted enough to exchange and advance ideas, but see themselves as independent and individualistic.

… 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.”

Action Items

  • Give yourself and your employees quiet time alone with no interruptions to get complex work done or come up with new ideas.
  • Open concept offices can be great for collaboration, but also have quiet work spaces where staff can get away and think.
  • Forget your next group brainstorming session. Have people come up with ideas on their own and then present them all anonymously to the group  later.

 

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