Intermittent Collaboration: The Perfect Way to Do Teamwork

November 25, 2019
Interactive collaboration is the perfect way of problem-solving at work. Find out why in this article!

Harvard University has proposed a new approach to problem-solving techniques. Intermittent collaboration is proving to be important in solving complex work-related issues.

Technology has enabled us to be constantly in touch with each other at a very low cost. However, according to this prestigious university, this isn’t always very beneficial for us. They argue that intermittent collaboration could be the best way to solve different types of complex problems.

“HBS Associate Professor Ethan Bernstein sees a number of implications in the workplace for different types of collaboration, including the advantages of alternating individual work with group work over a period of time.”

-The Harvard Gazette-

An investigation with strong results

Harvard Business School (HBS) Professor Ethan Bernstein and his colleagues conducted research into this recently. They published an article entitled “How Intermittent Interruptions in Communication Improve Collective Intelligence”. It was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). This article affirms that always being connected can actually reduce effectiveness. Intermittent communication, therefore, is the best way to solve problems, even complex ones.

The study was conducted after analyzing the resolution of complex problems using groups of three people. One of the groups never interacted with each other and managed to solve the problem in complete isolation. Another group interacted constantly, while the final group only did so intermittently.

A work meeting.

The scientists expected that those who solved the problems in isolation would be more creative. Likewise, they assumed that those who worked in a team wouldn’t achieve the same results. In addition, they anticipated that those who were in constant communication would have a higher average solution quality but wouldn’t be able to find the best solutions with the same frequency.

However, during the process, they discovered that the groups that interacted intermittently achieved a quality of solution similar to the groups that had constant communication, but with the added benefit of having individuals to add creativity and find the best solutions.

The most surprising thing of all is that when the interactions were intermittent, those who had better performance improved by learning from those of low performance. Meanwhile, when high and low-performance workers constantly interacted, the low-performance ones copied high-performance solutions and were ignored by high-performance workers.

Thus, when the interactions were intermittent, the ideas proposed by the low performers helped the high performers find improved solutions.

Intermittent collaboration benefits productivity

Harvard University affirms that this is how work has been carried out traditionally in different organizations. People work alone, then meet with colleagues, and then go back to working on their own again. However, the study points out that the advancement of technology has changed this process somewhat.

A team meeting.

However, Harvard University also pointed out that the researchers observed certain similarities in the way organizations work today. To be more specific, ideal teamwork should have intermittent communication that also allows the individual to work in isolation. This will, therefore, achieve better results.

Positive results

The intermittency of the interaction is the one that yields really positive results. The research also states that companies often have different areas for group work and individual work. This way, they can pause the interaction for a specified period of time.

Thus, the Harvard project concluded that the methods that allow intermittent contact, rather than a constant one, are more important for productivity and performance than previously thought.

In addition to this, we have the confirmation that the use of digital technology to communicate shouldn’t disturb those times when people are working alone.