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Teamwork swarm intelligence and herd stupidity: 6 tips for effective collaboration

Teamwork and swarm intelligence are always hotly debated topics. But how do you overcome the group effect so that the cunning swarm doesn't turn into a stupid herd? 6 tips.

swarm intelligence

Effectively work together in the team

The term swarm intelligence originally came from biology. According to the motto “Together we are strong”, some animal species have developed interesting strategies for foraging or protecting against enemies. In recent times, the term has increasingly been used to describe group dynamics.

Numerous experiments make it clear that people achieve more together and make better decisions. However, the opposite effect can quickly occur, the stupidity of the hearth. At team meetings, the opinions of others are accepted prematurely, but hardly anybody's own ideas are voiced. Social psychologists call this phenomenon a so-called group effect. The desire for harmony or conformity within a group leads to irrational decisions.

6 Tips for overcoming the group effect

With the following six easy-to-follow tips, you can take advantage of the positive effects of swarm intelligence and counteract the development of the group effect:

1. Provide diversity

Groups in which only like-minded people work together are often and quickly affected by the group effect. In order to achieve the best possible result, the group should be made up of people with different functions in the field Company and experience exist.

For example, at the annual Hackathon, where all Shutterstock employees work on 24's own ideas and projects for hours, the team members must be from at least three departments.

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2. Reset personal

The strongest proportion of each group is an employee who holds a leading position. Often this is the one who is the leader of the project being discussed, or is at the top of the hierarchy. Consciously or unconsciously, this brings his own personal goals into the discussion.

Sooner or later, the group will be influenced by their work. For this reason, the personal background in the teamwork should remain outside. This is the only way to ensure a working atmosphere in which an open exchange can take place and ultimately the best possible result can be achieved.

3. Create space for debate

Recent research at the Berkeley University in California shows the debates create an atmosphere in which we pay close attention to what others are saying and rethink our own view. This is only true, however, when debates are conducted constructively. The opinion of each team member counts and must be heard.

4. Take the role of devil advocate

In order to prevent the group effect from occurring in debates and to accept majority voting tacitly, it can be very helpful if a team member assumes the role of Advocatus Diaboli. This person should be entrusted with the task of initiating the discussion of different views, as well as to critically examine the results of the group.

5. Provide external feedback

Cooperation in the group can be positively influenced by the presence of outsiders. In the first step, cross-departmental feedback should be sought. For example, an open room design allows employees to quickly get in touch with colleagues from other departments. Their usually undisturbed gaze and their fresh ideas lead to a higher efficiency in the group. The aforementioned role of the Advocatus Diaboli can also be more easily occupied by external parties, as mistakes are identified more quickly by them.

In the second step, it is advisable to take the risk of breaking through the company's internal protection zone and to rely on external feedback. Especially in companies of the digital industry such as Shutterstock almost everything is subjected to a quality control with the help of so-called A / B tests. For example, selected users are presented with two minimally different variants of a product in order to test their suitability for use. Customer feedback also plays an important role at Shutterstock. Every day, customers are invited to provide detailed feedback in order to optimize their offers.

6. Enter the individual employees

Last but not least, the personality of the individual group members and their communication preferences must not be ignored. In each group constellation, there are employees who do not dare to express their opinions openly in front of others. In particular introverted team members should therefore be allowed to work on problem solving outside the group situation and to provide feedback.

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