Individuals more likely to be successful in solving wicked problemsDecember 2nd, 2007 - 12:08 pm ICT by admin
Washington, Dec 2 (ANI): Individuals are more successful than groups in solving a wicked problem, says a new study.
Wicked problems are those problems that by their very definition are so tangled that there is no agreement about their definitions, much less their solutions.
The study, led by George S. Davidson at Sandia National Laboratories, found that people working as individuals were at least as effective and possibly more so than those brainstorming in a group over the web when trying to solve wicked, tangled problems, both in terms of quality and quantity.
In this day and age of email and the internet, our expectations were that computer-mediated group brainstorming, i.e. across the web with no face-to face contact, was going to have the best results, Davidson said.
What we found, however, was that people working as individuals were at least as effective and possibly more so than those brainstorming in a group over the web when trying to solve wicked, tangled problems, both in terms of quality and quantity, he added.
For the study, Davidson assembled a team that consisted of himself, three psychologists, and two cognition researchers to investigate tools and methods for bringing very large numbers of people together to solve difficult problems via the intranet.
The researchers predicted that the group brainstorming could result in a huge pool of ideas that might lead to solutions.
They decided to pursue an electronic brainstorming experiment built around the very common face-to-face technique used at Sandia where people submit ideas written on Yellow Sticky Post-It Notes.
Courtney Dornburg, a researcher in the study said that as the team designed the experiment, the initial issue was deriving a wicked problem with no predefined right or wrong answer.
The wicked problem for the experiment, which was to think about the implications of two popular models in management theory.
In one view workers are just another natural resource to be used. In contrast, the second model sees employees as assets, which can be made more valuable by investing in their development.
For the experiment, the scientists recruited 120 Sandia employees and contractors and 26 student interns through an internal online daily newsletter and word of.
The participants were broken into two groups, those who worked alone and did not see the ideas of the other participants and those who worked in a group and were able to see and build on the ideas of the other members in the group via the Labs intranet.
Of the 120 employees and contractors, 69 contributed ideas.
During the experiment, participants logged onto the website anonymously and saw the question displayed at the top of the screen. They were asked to input their ideas the more the better, but no name-calling or abusive language.
We were amazed at the length and quality of the responses, both from the people working as a group and those working individually, Dornburg said.
People were very engaged, often writing long, detailed responses, she added.
Also, Dornburg said that what was most interesting in the study was that the quality of ideas from the people responding as individuals was significantly better across all three quality ratings.
While individuals working alone nominally faired better in this study, Davidson said, the research also indicated that group on-line brainstorming could be effective when ideas were needed from large numbers of people.
Despite our findings, it still seems reasonable that there may be modes of [as yet, untested] web-based interactions and strategies that would allow the larger group to have superior performance compared to a limited number of participants working alone, even if those participants are able to reason and write about their ideas with brilliance and clarity, Davidson said. (ANI)
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