Today’s Solutions: December 04, 2021

Are you a group project person or do you prefer to fly solo? We all have our work preferences, but what does science say about teamwork and productivity? A new study conducted by Quartz aims to answer the question of which tasks should be done as a team and which are more efficiently accomplished alone. Here’s what they found.

The researchers conducted their experiment using the virtual lab platform Empirica. They had individuals and teams complete tasks with varying degrees of complexity and difficulty. They found that when it comes to complex tasks, a team is faster and more efficient than even the most productive individual, but when it comes to simple tasks, individuals can get the job done more quickly.

These findings are traced back to a cost-benefit analysis of teamwork versus solo work. In a team, the costs include the increased need for communication time and the risk of social loafing, where team members do less under the assumption that someone else will step up. On the other hand, teams also offer the benefits of more creativity and multiple viewpoints as well as the ability to divide and conquer tasks. Essentially, the costs of teamwork remain fixed, but the benefits increase significantly with the complexity of the task.

The takeaway for managers, teams, and teachers is that for simple tasks, one-person delegation is probably better, but for more complex tasks, the benefits of collaboration outweigh the slowdowns of group work.

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