Monday, March 26, 2012

One group, one thought, freaking scary.

Dear Susan Cain,

In The Rise of the New Groupthink you bring up that "Solitude is out of fashion." but when was it ever in?

I recognize that the change from a cubicle organization to an open-plan office does not allow individuals to get work done because they are constantly bothered by their surroundings but I do not agree that in a cubicle organization people were actually alone or even felt alone.

 In a cubicle organization people share the floor space with the rest of their peers. In addition, although there is a plastic wall separating people, I don’t think people felt "alone" because they know that they can walk down to any other cubicle and ask for help. I think people in a cubicle society work better because they know that the cubicles offer some privacy and concentration, have people they can get a hold of at any given moment to help them resolve any dilemma. This in turn entails them to able to concentrate on their task because they know that they have that support.

With that being said, I agree that people do some of their best work alone, but I do feel that you undermine the importance a good group.

"Solitude is a catalyst to innovation." This might be true but had it not been for Steve Jobs, Wozniak would have given away his product free and apple we Apple wouldn’t exist. I think that groups are important part of the creation of a whole process, one person can't do everything.

In the article, "Here Comes Everybody" Clay Shirky says that Wikipedia is powerful today because it makes use of different people's knowledge and skills. It recognizes that not one person has all the knowledge and skills necessary to write one really good article, takes group effort. People that are knowledgeable of the topic, can edit, and improve the text.

Now as much as I think that a good group is important for the successful completion of a project, a bad group with no understanding of the need to balance individual and communal work is detrimental. As you say, Group work fails when people "tend to sit back and let others do their work; mimic other's ideas, and succumb to peer pressure."

In the article "The Cult of the Amateur" by Andrew Keen, he brings up another point for why open source group work is does more harm than good. Keen looks down on collaboration of people that do not have the skills or knowledge and therefore according to him should not be giving their two cents. "The free, user generated content spawned and extolled by the Web 2.0 revolution is disseminating the ranks of our cultural gatekeepers." Not only do are professional positions in threat of extinction, like journalist, but now the information being put out there is suffering as well. "The more self-created content that gets dumped onto the internet; the harder it becomes to distinguish the good from the bad."

There should be a balance of directed group work followed by individual work.

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