The Thing About Groups

Posted by Jessye

A while back I heard this guy on the radio presenting his wonderful new business. Overall it sounded quite interesting, fun, might work, might not (how would I know, I’m clueless about business), might be worth a try. But when he explained his basic assumption, it made me laugh so much, the water I was drinking came back out through my nose. Ouch. (Well, at least it wasn’t vodka this time, that stuff really burns in your nose!)

His idea is to develop a “group-beer” (that’s what he called it, I added the quotation marks). He wants anyone who’s interested to have a say in what this new beer would taste like, what ingredients to use and so on. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find his website, but that’s what he was creating. An online project, where anyone can add their own personal views on what the perfect beer should be to the mix.

To be honest, I can’t really see that working out too well. You’d almost certainly get some idiot trying to dick it up just for fun. And if you’re unlucky, you might even get an intelligent prankster, who knows what he’s talking about, making suggestions that aren’t obviously screwy, but leave you with a practically poisonous substance rather than the perfect beer. But I suppose you might get lucky.

While I’m not too optimistic about the whole thing, there’s nothing there to get my nose hurt. It’s the following assumption that has me questioning his mental capacity:

A group will always come up with a solution that is more intelligent than the most intelligent member of that group.

I might have paraphrased slightly (I didn’t write it down immediately), but that was what he said.

Has this guy ever solved a problem in a group?!

Yes, if you have a team comprised only of relatively intelligent people, odds are your solution will be even better if they work toward it together rather than separately.

But honestly? I’ve had to work in teams with people significantly less bright than I am before (there’s just no way to say that without sounding stuck up, is there?). If there are enough of them, and they’re stubborn enough in their idiocy, eventually the less mentally challenged team member(s) will give in. It’s just not worth spending what looks like turning into the rest of your life trying to convince them that their plan sucks, when you can just demonstrate it by letting them have their way, sitting back and watching the fireworks.

And in the end, it’s just a beer…

Am I wrong about this? Do you agree with him, that a group will ALWAYS get a better result than an individual? I just don’t see it.

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