Collaboration doesn't work, says an intriguing new article, "What's Next: The Idiocy of Crowds" in Inc. magazine.
Things only get worse when a team is charged with actually making a decision. One of the biggest problems is that it's easy for a few members of a group who think the same way--but who may be flat-out wrong--to sway the opinions of others. Consensus steadily grows until a majority is reached, at which point even people who have confidence in their dissenting, higher-quality opinion are likely to bow to the group.
If you've ever wondered how Enron's managers could have convinced themselves they were running a good company, or how a jury could have found O.J. Simpson innocent, now you know. Of course, you could bring independent thinkers to your groups--but then you'll run into the problem of deadlock. "About half of all groups don't reach any conclusion at all," says Nijstad.
New technology only amplifies the problem. For starters, the tools that connect us to our colleagues make it all the easier to form brainstorming sessions wherever we are, at any time--essentially turning all decisions into group decisions. What's more, these electronic group decisions can be even more brain-dead than in-person meetings. The biggest problem: the fear of dissenting is magnified in a Web, e-mail, or instant messaging exchange, because participants know their comments can be saved and widely distributed. Instead of briefly offending six people at a meeting, you have the chance to enrage thousands.
Thanks to coolmel for the link.