The pandemic has brought new relevance to the question: Are teams better than individuals at getting work done? New research finds surprising answers for managers trying to figure out the best way to assign tasks.
The study was conducted by Wharton Professor of Operations, Information and Decisions Duncan Watts. In their research, Watts and his co-authors found:
- Simple tasks are best accomplished by individuals, while difficult ones are more efficiently completed by a group.
“Groups are as fast as the fastest individual and more efficient than the most efficient individual when the task is complex but not when the task is simple,” the researchers wrote in their paper entitled, “Task Complexity Moderates Group Synergy.”
Watts said the study is unique because it’s the first to make an “apples to apples” comparison in a lab setting. The scholars created an experiment that allowed them to manipulate the complexity of the same task, rather than simply giving the participants different kinds of tasks, as most previous studies have done. “In this research, we could vary complexity in a nice, systematic, principled way without changing anything else,” Watts said.
Source: Watts, D.; Almaatouq, A.; Alsobay, M.; Yin, M. (2021, October 12). Are Teams Better Than Individuals at Getting Work Done? Knowledge@Wharton: The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.