06 September 2010

More common sense advice

"If one person in the team has flawed information -- or is less competent -- then the outcome can be negative and perhaps you should completely ignore them"

Not very often do you run into people who have reliable information on how competent they are, but it is very easy to assess quickly on some complex subjects. What would be surprising to me is how difficult most people find it to tell someone else that "yes, unfortunately you are an idiot sir."

I've found all sorts of ways to tell people this after years of internet combat.

I also would safely assume that a study looking for productivity or creativity gains from 2 people would have diminishing returns as more people are introduced. Groupthink is pretty powerful and could overpower reliable information when the group is confident of the wrong things (as is often the case in democratic societies). As is the free rider problem to create deadwood problems instead of efficient gains.

The crucial element of any group though would indeed be how effectively it communicates reliable signals of accurate information gathering or the selection of new information to make use of, I don't think it would matter as much how many people are in a group of people willing to discuss their disagreements and arrive at agreements based on confident reliable information.

The problem is that most people seem to possess very different information when they disagree with each other and to boot, process it differently. A group composed of widely disparate information flows will probably be wildly creative at times and mostly be rendered inert by infighting over tedious details, while a group composed of well-coordinated but incorrect or unreliable information may get a lot done, but it will be mostly a waste of time.

Generally then it is best to rely on yourself to get things done if you are known to be more competent than others, and to only rely on other people who you have (mutually) assessed as competent to do what they can do (specialisation). That's a problem among people who are incompetent and who overestimate their abilities. But then again, that's not usually my problem.
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