Captainitis (Ross Mayfield)

Psychologist Patrick Laughlin from the University of Illinois has a new study that shows that groups outperform even the best individuals in decision making. Always good to rethink groupthink, but I’m not digging up the echo chamber meme.

A cooperating unit benefits from diversity and parallel processing. Without cooperation, errors such as captainitis (when a team defers to the expertise of others) and when a leader possesses so much expertise they isolate themselves. The article suggests a common lesson of invoking collaboration even when its not immeadiately necessary.

With our little company, it helps that we work openly as possible and I try to involve as many people as feasible in a decision. We also borrow the extreme programming practice of pairing to get tasks done. Even Watson and Crick cracked the code through pairing:

At first, Watson ticked off a set of contributory factors that were unsurprising: He and Crick had identified the problem as the most important one to attack. They were passionate about it, devoting themselves single-mindedly to the task. They were willing to try approaches that came from outside their areas of familiarity.

Then he added a stunning reason for their success: he and Crick had cracked the elusive code of DNA because they weren’t the most intelligent of the scientists pursuing the answer. According to Watson, the smartest of the lot was Rosalind Franklin, a brilliant British scientist who was working in Paris at the time.

The only thing more dangerous than someone making decisions in isolation is hoarding the information others need to make decisions.

Related: Best practice does not equal best strategy (process-based strategic decision making fails).

[via Jeff Nolan]

Update: Valids Krebs points out the Captainitis of the new Intelligence Czar, which increases the distance from the President to sources of information. Social network analysis aside, in today’s administration, this could be a good or a bad thing.


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