According to new research, a combination of collaboration and isolation are best when working on a project.
In the study, Boston-based researchers — Harvard Business School associate professor Ethan Bernstein, Boston University business professor Jesse Shore and Northeastern University professor David Lazer — analyzed three groups to see how well each completed a complex task, according to an Aug. 15 article in Associations Now.
Members of the first three-person group were asked to work together. Participants in the second group worked together and separately, and people in the third group worked individually.
Researchers expected the individuals to come up with the most creative solutions (but with inconsistent results) and the collaborators to come up with consistently good solutions but not necessarily the most creative.
They found that to be true in their study. However, the best solutions came from the group that combined collaboration with time alone to think. Results were published in the Aug. 13 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“Intermittent breaks in interaction improve collective intelligence,” the report said. “Being exposed to diverse answers boosts performance even if the answers one sees are worse than one’s own.”