When Teamwork Stifles Creativity

Collaboration is the new buzzword. Open offices and brainstorming sessions purport to outperform the antiquated lone wolf. Yet solitude remains essential to creativity, say researchers.

What's the Latest Development?


Collaboration is all the rage and solitude is out. Thanks in part to the omnipresence of social media, where everyone and everything is intimately connected, we now model the physical world on the virtual world. Our schools and businesses now go to lengths to encourage group learning. Row desks and cubicles are out; group seating and open offices are in. To accommodate the new fashion, the individual is losing ground: The average amount of space allotted to each employee has shrank 300 square feet in the last 40 years. 

What's the Big Idea?

In the end, individuality is essential to creativityhaving time and space to work aloneand some businesses are realizing that they have overshot the collaborative mark. "Studies show that open-plan offices make workers hostile, insecure and distracted. ... And people whose work is interrupted make 50 percent more mistakes and take twice as long to finish it." Solitude makes us more productive and can also facilitate learning. In guiding inventors, Steve Wozniak said, 'Work alone... Not on a committee. Not on a team.'

Photo credit: shutterstock.com

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