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Better off alone

25 January 2012 |
Posted in: Purchasing

In the latest issue, SM looked at some techniques to improve innovation when trying to come up with ideas as a team.

But recently published research suggests you might be better off working out problems on your own, rather than involving your colleagues.

A study from Virginia Tech university in the US found working in a group can collectively lower the IQs of participants. Individuals with similar IQs performed less well in a group at solving tasks against a benchmark. It attributes this weaker performance to the social element of being in a group.

The researchers considered the effect this sort of behaviour could have on members of a jury, as an example. But what about the small group dynamics involved when part of a negotiation team? It would be interesting to see whether individuals or teams are able to achieve a better result. What do you think?

4 Responses to “Better off alone”

  1. There are other studies ( 2011 Haravard Business Review) suggesting that well understood and managed collaboration brings higher/better results. Research has to be taken within the context of all variable contributing to experiment/study.

  2. My personal opinion:

    It’s an interesting idea; I think that it depends on the group and on the preparation. ‘High Performing Teams’ can be exactly that – high performing.

    A group of people can be more than the sum of its parts. No one person has all the answers, a prompt from another member of the team – to develop an idea, or to move it in another direction – can result in a better product/output that everyone in the group buys into.

    The sort of group environment where people are allowed to sit-back and ‘coast’ on the collective coat-tails of the rest of the group would produce the result you’ve indicated here.

    A group that are encouraged to prepare, bring ideas, and actively participate are less likely to produce this result.

    History tells us we can achieve more together than we could ever do on our own.

    In a negotiation environment I would argue that two heads are definitely better than one, even if one of those ‘heads’ is simply observing body-language and noting; concessions, pain points and opportunities to capitalise on. Breakout sessions are more fruitful and continued negotiations more productive as a result of this two-pronged attach.

    All the advice I have ever read [on change management / implementing change / delivering a successful project] indicates that to gain buy-in to an idea, it must be a collaborative / collective effort to get to that position. An imposed idea or ideal that is not felt or believed by the collective is doomed to failure. It might be a brilliant idea and with the best intentions, but it may never become a reality if you don’t bring your people along with you.

    Put another way – you can right the best strategy / paper in the world but it will never become a reality if your people do not believe it, live it and deliver it. I’m sure there are plenty of procurement professionals out there that can think of examples of this that they have come across in their careers.

  3. Recent research? Groupthink has been recognised for yonks.

  4. I work alone a lot and find no problem with it, no problem with it, duuuhhh…

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