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Does better collaboration equal better results?

Brainstorming is frequently one of the first steps of a group project. We gather in a conference room and someone writes ideas on a white board and through collaboration we come up with a great idea, which we then execute.

And the better the collaboration the better the end project, right? Well maybe not. Researchers conducted an experiment where teams were brought together for 30-minute brainstorming sessions, with a project to be completed at the end.

Some teams were provided with chairs and others were not. The researchers found that the "standers" had much better collaboration, Research Digest reports:

[Researchers] found that groups working in the room with no chairs showed higher arousal, as measured by a gadget worn around the wrist that detected skin sweatiness. Students in these groups also showed reduced territoriality, which means that individuals felt less possessive of the ideas they generated. This might be because the lack of chairs encouraged them to share the physical space and this facilitated a sharing mindset. The good news is both these factors -- higher arousal and less territoriality -- were associated with more "idea elaboration". This is the process, crucial for successful group brainstorming, by which each individual's best ideas are recombined with other people's, or improved upon by others.

All of these positives towards collaboration from simply removing the chairs! The students shared more and did more. The researchers even concluded that if you want more collaboration, you should try holding your meetings without chairs.

But, there's one additional bit of information: The final projects of the standers were not any better than the final projects of the sitters.

Let's be honest. As far as business is concerned, investors couldn't care less if everyone's ideas were listened to and if the team member were territorial or not. What they care about is the final results -- how well does the end product perform, how much money does it make.

Maybe good collaboration isn't what it's cracked up to be. Maybe we should identify the most creative people, or the people with the best ideas, or the most solid understanding of what the requirements for the project is, and just listen to them.

And perhaps we should do that sitting down, where we're comfortable. I'm all in favor of good collaboration and finding good ideas, but think we need to recognize that what we need is good results. Doing tricks like making everyone stand sounds great, but since the results aren't better, let people do what they want to do.

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