Remember when you were in high school and the teacher assigned a group project? Remember how you griped about that one group member who never had time for the project? The other who turned in shoddy work? And in the end you did it all and they still got credit. This is possibly what happened to Irving Janis. So he grew up with a dislike for group collaboration, and would later coin the phrase “Group Think,” which isn’t a positive thing.
Groups have an “illusion of invulnerability.” They discount warnings, believe in the rightness of their cause, and become, “self-appointed mindguards.” All of which leads to a lack of creativity. But now, Keith Sawyer is advancing the idea that there is genius in group collaboration, hence his book, “Group Genius: The Creative Power of Collaboration.” Collaboration can bring far apart concepts together for a more creative end product, like peanut butter and chocolate, like oil and water – well maybe not that. It’s like jazz or improvisational theater. Any single person couldn’t come close to the end product that results from the entire group’s input.
The best groups are diverse in their experience and approaches. They look away from what has worked before and are given the freedom to be wildly creative. Even in individuals, the mind performs a sort of internal collaboration built on previous experiences. Ultimately, one person’s brilliant idea may be traced back to collaboration. So whether it’s video game animation, Google Earth, banking technology or beeping and bopping jazz musicians, the thinking of a group could be better – and all that jazz.
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