Who believes that groups perform better than individuals?
Who likes groupwork?
I’m sure everyone remembers the marshmallow challenge that we did, working with our teams to build
a tower that could support a marshmallow at the very top. It took some time for the teams to hash it
out, and to determine how they were going to build their tower. Once a plan was in place, everyone
enthusiastically added spaghetti and tape, frantically adding the marshmallow at the very end.
In some cases, the tower remained standing. In others, the whole structure toppled over.
Now imagine trying to complete that same task as an individual. Trying to hold the spaghetti, the
marshmallow, and building the whole structure.
That wouldn’t have worked very well.
This is why we need teamwork.
Strong teams are able to facilitate information, managing and understanding the process at hand.
Challenges like the marshmallow task require all of our senses, all of our thinking, and feeling, and
When we look at tasks like this, it seems that groups and teams are automatically the most effective way
to get things done. An individual simply has less intellectual resources and abilities on hand compared to
the ones that enable groups to succeed well.
Groups are able to learn from their mistakes faster than individuals would. I believe that this is partially
due to the acceleration of brain processes when we are around others. We simply think better when we
can bounce ideas off one another, and can take advantage of other’s diverse backgrounds to grow.
But life isn’t always like the marshmallow challenge. Sometimes, tasks do require a more individual
approach – but would an individual approach still benefit from some sort of group consensus? That is,
would individual work benefit from a group atmosphere?
For example, if we were able to consult with others before we attempted a math problem, would we
perform better? What about if we were trying to guess the answer to something, like a jellybean game?
As the saying goes, “the greater the demonstrability of the correct solution, the greater the relative
superiority of the group over the individual.” Basically when groups can explain things to one another
that is when they have the most success.
For example, in problem solving situations, a group member can explain to another member why the
answer is correct with regards to a certain math problem with a definitive answer. Someone can explain
why 2 + 2 is equal to 4, through popsicle sticks or finger counting. There is a correct solution, and when
the members can demonstrate that to each other, that is when they are successful. However, according to multiple studies, when groups have to estimate quantities, they are usually only
marginally more successful than the individual by comparison. It does not really help to have a group try
and guess the number of jellybeans in a jar, because such a situation does not really require any group
dynamics. It does not take consensus or agreement to try and guess something correctly – it just takes
Interestingly enough, groups only do as well as their second best member on analyzing vocabulary,
analogies, or ranking of objects, as compared to performing as well as their highest member on problem
solving problems as stated previously. These answers are less objective and more subjective, and rely
more on individual interpretation than a black and white answer.
However, individuals who had been in groups previously performed better on ALL types of questions
than individuals wh