'Always on' isn't necessarily best for creativity

25 Oct 2018 By Lauren Brown

Collaborating intermittently with colleagues produces the best outcomes

We all know working hard isn’t always working effectively, but recently published research by Harvard Business School has confirmed our ‘always on’ culture isn’t productive. 

The findings, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, showed teams were best at decision-making when collaborating only intermittently. 

Professor Ethan Bernstein and his colleagues, who co-authored the How intermittent breaks in interaction improve collective intelligence study, reported: “Prior research has shown that when people interact and influence each other while solving complex problems, the average problem-solving performance of the group increases, but the best solution actually decreases in quality.”

They said this was because social influence leads individuals to adopt their peers’ opinions and copy their solutions to problems.

David Lazer, professor of political and computer sciences at Northeastern University, who co-authored the study, said: “We found that if communication was ‘always on’, collective creativity suffered. Groups converged really quickly on an approach, and the result was mediocre. Intermittent communication performed the best, because it balanced individual creativity with learning from others.”

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