I love teams. I’m a people person and love to get a crowd in the room kicking around ideas. But at the same time, I also know when to clear the room and get down to business. Sometimes I think whoever invented the “open door policy” probably meant well, but sooner or later, you have to shut the door and start thinking.
Jonathan Littman and Marc Hershon, writers of “I Hate People” discuss the issue in their book based on the difficulties of working in the modern office. In the book, they insist that contemporary corporate America puts too much emphasis on teamwork. As they say, “Four decades ago, Fortune did a study of the most valued characteristics in an employee. The magazine found that teamwork was ranked tenth. . . . Jump forward to 2005, and Fortune’s follow-up survey showed that teamwork had climbed to #1.”
As told in the Wall Street Journal: “Teamwork, the authors say, suffocates creativity and has its own limitations. They describe a classic experiment done nearly a century ago by French agricultural engineer Maximilien Ringelmann. He measured people pulling on a rope connected to a strain gauge, first as individuals and then as members of tug-of-war teams. The result: A person pulls harder alone than as part of a group. Ringelmann dubbed the phenomenon “social loafing.” Today it is known simply as the Ringelmann Effect, and what it means in the real world, say Messrs. Littman and Hershon, is that “the more people you throw at a problem, the less each contributes.”
That doesn’t diminish my desire to create great teams for discussing ideas. But it is a great reminder that teams aren’t always the answer. There’s a lot to be said for the creative power of a single person.