Friday, April 14, 2006

Group mentality



Literature circles work under the concept that "None of us is smarter than all of us". Like many utopias, that ideal is good on paper. Collaboration cannot be bad, right? In our very collaborative world of technology where the computer not only allows you to be a consumer but encourages you to be a producer (blogs, wikipedia, web pages), is that always true?

I am an avid reader of a blog called Creating Passionate Users written by several authors. The most prolific writer on that blog, Kathy Sierra-game developer and software creator, wrote something very profound which reflected on her experience at a conference where she heard James Surowiecki, author of The Wisdom of Crowds. Kathy writes that she believes that groups are collectively dumber than individuals (see her creative image on this post). Read her post and then reflect on your thoughts about "groupwork":

He started with a few thoughts on how ants (and so many other creatures) are quite simple and stupid, but that their intelligence and complexity grows with the number of interactions between them. More ant interaction equals more sophisticated behavior. It's similar to flocking behavior, of course, where birds follow very simple rules but complex behavior emerges.

And that's all great and intuitive... until you get to humans. Humans, he said, demonstrate the opposite principle: more interactions equals dumber behavior. When we come together and interact as a group seeking consensus, we lose sophistication and intelligence. Ants get smarter while we get dumber.

So how does this track with the name of his book?

Where I had it wrong is that his book's premise (wisdom of crowds) comes with qualifiers.
The wisdom of crowds comes not from the consensus decision of the group, but from the aggregation of the ideas/thoughts/decisions of each individual in the group.

At its simplest form, it means that if you take a bunch of people and ask them (as individuals) to answer a question, the average of each of those individual answers will likely be better than if the group works together to come up with a single answer. And he has a ton of real examples (but you'll just have to read the book for them ; )

18 comments:

Leeb3 said...

I didn't really feel like reading the entire topic, so ill just write about what i think about group mentality. I think it is always better to work as a group than as an individual. You always get more done, and you can evenly divide the work

Drewf3 said...

I think in some cases groupwork is beneficial. But, for me, a lot of times I find that I work better by myself. I am not exactly sure why, but I guess it could be because I concentrate better when I am alone.

BakerB3 said...

Havint a uptopia can never happen. People are always going to be smarter than one another. Yes it does look good on paper but if everyone was the same that would be boring and if no one was smarter then anyone else then not as many things would be created.

calliek3 said...

Yes it is true, that because of technology people can put their thoughts out their and produce their thoughts and help educate others.

SamM5 said...

i think working in groups can be very beneficial because you dont feel as necessarily burdened by the amount of work, plus you can blend ideas with your peers. im really excited about working in groups on this reading project. it should be fun.

AndersonS6 said...

Group-think can be a very bad thing. The problem with a lot of group situations is that certain members will not work as hard because others will. The other thing is that group thinking can undermine creativity.

Mitchell M 6 said...

I don't mind group work as long as everyone carries their load of work. I can work alone or with others, at this point I just want to be done with school.

KatherineK5 said...

I often work better individually rather than in a group because I can concentrate better. Groups can be helpful though in understanding certain topics (like books). Also it is easier to learn because all the group members can share their ideas.

maxg3 said...

That's actually pretty interesting, worth the length of the post. When you think about it though, it makes sense. If you yourself are answering a question, you go for it, even if you may be wrong sometimes. If you're in a group though, if one person is doubtful, the whole group is doubtful, and different people have different ideas of what is right and what is wrong. But yeah, it makes sense.

Rachaelw5 said...

Working in groups can be a good thing, but it can also be a very annoying thing. If you have a good group of people that are willing to help and do their part, then group work can be a great experience, however, if you do not have a good group of people, the experience will not be a fun one. Also, sometimes when people get together to work, they get off task really easily and do not get any work done.

DorieF5 said...

Personally, I would rather work individually than in a group, unless I have some one that works like me. Normally when I am in a group, I end up being the person that does most of the stuff, and that get's annoying. And the other people get the same grade, even though they didn't do anything! But if its a good group, then there's a chance you can get a lot out of it. Sometimes I can be the person that never does anything, if I am with smart people. so it kind of goes both ways.

CaitlinW3 said...

It isn't always the most qualified individuals that make a productive team. It is how all of them collaborate once in the group that measures the success of the team. In a team there should always be a leader, followers, and someone that steps out of the box to question what's going on. That creates a well balance for everyone. In either scenario entrepreneurs vs. corporation in business today every individual needs to learn how to cooperate in both settings.

AbbyW5 said...

I think group work can be good if everybody in the group is compatible. A lot of times in school, we are assigned to a group in which no one's ideas mesh very well. The success of group work completely depends on the people in the group being able to work together.

walkerd3 said...

I think when there are groups made the smart people assume the role of doing everything. This makes the people who never do anything even dumber for not learning the material. So group work is a big advantage for the smart people because they learn more than they should.

maggieb6 said...

I agree with the whole "None of us is smarter than all of us" thing. When each individual comes up with an idea, they can share the ideas and come up with someone good. More always gets done, and I tend to understand things better when I'm working with others because they will sometimes ask questions I wouldn't think to ask, or they will point something out that I didn't notice.

Addie said...

The only problem I have with group work is that it usually takes a lot longer to do something in a group than it would for you to just do it yourself, but no one wants to just do it theirselves anyway.

christ1 said...

I really don't mind group work, but would rather just work individually. Working in a group is fine, it usually takes forever to do something though. Plus you have to rely on other people to get the work done and I would rather just do it myself. That way I know it is done.

rebeccal5 said...

In many situations groups can be better. For example, the presidents of America have always had cabinets to help them make decisions. They get to hear knowledge and ideas from many people (all the current secretaries of everything I could name right now.....because I have Ms. Isbell, yay). On the other hand, if you maused a group to decide which restaurant to go eat at, it is hopeless. In my opinion, groups are best when all of the participants are qualified and that there is a leader and overall decision maker. Groups should only be used for very dificult or complex things in which you need all the different opinions, wisdom, experiences, and options you can. If it is over something easy or simple, groups only hurt.