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Group Work Stifles Genius

We here at SuperMegaMonkey fully support The Introvert. See here if you have an introvert, and you're worried about how to properly care for them.

That said, here's an article about why having to work in groups all the time sucks. (h/t wnkr, a fellow introvert)

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. They're not joiners by nature.
And yet. The New Groupthink has overtaken our workplaces, our schools and our religious institutions. Anyone who has ever needed noise-canceling headphones in her own office or marked an online calendar with a fake meeting in order to escape yet another real one knows what I'm talking about. Virtually all American workers now spend time on teams and some 70 percent inhabit open-plan offices, in which no one has "a room of one's own." During the last decades, the average amount of space allotted to each employee shrank 300 square feet, from 500 square feet in the 1970s to 200 square feet in 2010.
Studies show that open-plan offices make workers hostile, insecure and distracted. They're also more likely to suffer from high blood pressure, stress, the flu and exhaustion. And people whose work is interrupted make 50 percent more mistakes and take twice as long to finish it.

Many introverts seem to know this instinctively, and resist being herded together. [yay, introverts! --min]


Solitude can even help us learn...Conversely, brainstorming sessions are one of the worst possible ways to stimulate creativity...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."

The reasons brainstorming fails are instructive for other forms of group work, too. People in groups tend to sit back and let others do the work; they instinctively mimic others' opinions and lose sight of their own; and, often succumb to peer pressure. The Emory University neuroscientist Gregory Berns found that when we take a stance different from the group's, we activate the amygdala, a small organ in the brain associated with the fear of rejection. Professor Berns calls this "the pain of independence."

The one important exception to this dismal record is electronic brainstorming, where large groups outperform individuals; and the larger the group the better. The protection of the screen mitigates many problems of group work. This is why the Internet has yielded such wondrous collective creations. Marcel Proust called reading a "miracle of communication in the midst of solitude," and that's what the Internet is, too. It's a place where we can be alone together -- and this is precisely what gives it power.

Remember having to do group projects in school and there was always that one slacker you ended up with who never did anything so the rest of you had to do more work since your grade was riding on it? Grr...

I've rarely attended a meeting at work where actual things were decided on, where progress was made. They usually end up being 2 hours of saying the same 3 things over and over again because people aren't paying attention, or they are paying attention but they don't understand words unless they're coming out of their own mouths. And then we all get assigned some task that's part of the bigger project and told to go work on it for the next meeting. You know what? Could you have just emailed that task to me so i could save myself the trouble of wasting those 2 hours of my life that i will never get back?

The author of this article also wrote a book titled "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking". I'm thinking of buying copies and just leaving them everywhere. I don't know why i'm thinking that. It just seems the thing to do.

By min | January 17, 2012, 11:41 AM | Ummm... Other?