Collusion Blog

Crowd-thinking: are two heads better than one?

It is an old proverb that we've all heard before. 'Working as a team' in many types of tasks can more easily or more likely be accomplished working as a group. While it might seem obvious, many of us are not applying it fully or understandings its limits, so here are some thoughts and tips you might not have considered.

  1. The infinite heads theory...
    What if there were ten heads, or a hundred, or everyone on the planet? It goes without saying there would be an incredible amount of noise and argument; this could be counter-productive and have diminishing returns. Having too many points of view and ideas can create organizational and social problems, it becomes difficult to curate information and come to critical decision points, communication and feedback can be critical to collaborate effectively, and this breaks down with volume. The good news of course in small groups for everyday tasks, having a couple of friends or colleagues help out can be very productive!
  2. Work as a team remotely...
    With the power of real-time collaboration, like Collusion, your colleagues can be right there with you as you work or vice versa. The old problem of communication and the benefits lost of not being face-to-face are slowly fading away. You can whiteboard, video conference and contribute instantly, not just increasing the amount of time you can spend, but more affordably too.
  3. Let's start at idea inception...
    Why not outsource your thinking at the very beginning, including others in your work from the very beginning can not only help with the dreaded writers block or blank page syndrome, but also provide unique perspective and de-risk your plans from the very early stages. This can be really powerful, especially as we move onto number 3.
  4. Choose the right heads...
    Selecting the right people to collaborate can be sink-or-swim. If your project is really important, carefully select the team you work with that has the right skills to contribute in a way that suit your needs, this means knowing who is actually going to provide the different thinking you want and enabling them to effectively contribute. You are more likely to want to collaborate when you can easily access and perceive the ability of your potential collaborators.

    Have the courage to be selective; sometimes collaborators may become toxic to your process and other team mates, removing their write access to contribute or perhaps removing them altogether can sometimes be necessary.
  5. Why not always work together?
    Pair working & especially pair programming has long proven in engineering to be indispensable in improving team work and productivity. We need to learn from its powers and apply it to our other activities. Pair working has taught us that working side-by-side on our tasks has huge benefits:
    • Work is reviewed by default
    • Learning due to sharing
    • Removes bad habits and reinforces good ones
    • Knowledge redundancy
    • Team building
    • Team ownership
    • Diverse solutions
  6. Reward your collaborators, tit-for-tat...
    Create a reward system for those who help, incentivising collaboration can lead to better satisfaction on both parts, which creates a great positive feedback loop. We will want to collaborate more since we get better results, and your collaborators will want to help as much as possible in all the ways they can since they see many benefits other than just your success. Simply involving them in the results, by sharing your final work with them can be enough!
  7. Include passive collaborators, like your mentors...
    You shouldn't collaborate with everyone on everything; but why not include your thought leaders, mentors or other passive collaborators on your projects have them watch your work. They can be passive most of the time but unexpectedly give you some critical piece of insight to your work which may change your thinking altogether.
  8. Keep a sense of authority...
    Sometimes its better to not de-centralize ownership of your projects. Having some control over the group helps resolve social issues through structure. Whilst everyone involved might have high level permissions, retaining ownership and authority also helps keep your project on the track that you want it be on.

Hopefully these insights will be useful; if so, then the proverb still holds true. Two heads are better than one!