July 6, 2013

Teamwork or Telework?

Clive Thompson makes an interesting point in Wired (15 May 2013) on productivity versus creativity.

He says that people seem more creative when interacting with other people in a group, and more productive when left alone to get their work done. 

Hence, he advocates for telework to improve individual productivity, but basically only after the team first gets together to figure out what creative things they should be doing. 

While I agree that group interchange can be good for bouncing ideas around and sparking innovation, and that with some quiet time, people can plow through a lot of work on their own--this is only a very narrow perspective.

Really, very often, the exact opposite is true....think about it. 

When alone, and with some quiet time to think, you may come up with some of your best and most creative ideas. That is because the pressure is off to strut your stuff with the others, the groupthink is gone, and you can concentrate and free associate.  Inventors, writers, painters, and other creative types come up with some of the best innovations, when they are left alone to do their thing. 

Similarly, when people are in a group, they can often be much more productive than when working alone. Whether in mass producing good as a team in a factory, as team mates in sports passing and scoring, as warfighters waging battle side by side, and even as the construction crew in the picture above putting up a brand new high-rise building--people, when working together, can do amazingly great and productive things.

So yes, while at times groups can spark creativity among each other and quiet time can be good for getting (some paper) work done, often the exact opposite is true--and the group can produce in quantity and quality and the individual can think, experiment, and truly innovate.

Group and individual work is not correlated one for one with creativity and productivity--it all depends on what you are trying to get done. 

But either way, you need both telework and teamwork to think and produce. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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