At work we don’t always work alone, much of the time we need to cooperate with other people to achieve shared goals. And when a team works well, it’s much more than the sum of the individuals in the team, but when it’s working badly lots of time is wasted dealing with arguments and miscommunications. The team is ineffective and people never want to work together again.
First things – first! Let’s talk about  The Expert’s Curse.
Experts can be our most powerful teachers. But often they have lost the ability to answer even simple questions accurately. What do I mean?
Suppose you have $5,000 and want to invest some money?
If you have the following options, who would you give it to?
  • A financial Astrologer
  • An experienced financial analyst
  • A 4-year-old girl
In fact, this is a real experiment conducted in 2001 by a UK Psychology Professor.
  • The Astrologer made his choice by examining the formation date of the companies.
  • The financial analyst relied on his seven years of experience.
  • The 4-year-old girl, randomly grabbed four company names from a pile of papers.
What do you think the results were?
  • In the first week, the Astrologer lost around 10% of the money.
  • The Expert lost around 7%.
  • Our 4-year-old lost only 4.6%.
Now after 1 year, this was the result:
market drop
The global market dropped to 16%. As you can see the 4-year-old was the only one who didn’t lose any money.
You might think this only applies to experts in the world of finance. However, there have been lots of cases where experts and authorities in other fields also made huge mistakes. Here are a few examples:

mistakes examples

So, how can we break the expert’s curse?
Here is an interesting example – It’s 1906, Plymouth’s Show in the U.K., a fat ox was selected, competitors bought numbered cards and they wrote down their estimates of what the ox would weigh.
Those who made the closest guess won the prize.
Later, scholars discovered that the average guess of all the entrants was remarkably close to the actual weight of the ox.
It seemed like the group, combined, had more wisdom than the individual.


So why?

Well, there are many explanations.

The one I want to focus on is about grouping people together. In other words, making use of the wisdom of a team.

Teams can provide more cognitive resources and social emotional support than individuals can.

And we do find teams becoming more and more popular in the modern workplace.


So, what makes teams effective?


Coordination and collaboration. It’s really that simple! When collaborating and coordinating their actions, teams generate better ideas, achieve more objectives, and provide greater services.
However, in reality we’ll also see many dysfunctional teams.  So the question becomes, how can we really benefit from using teams?
Let’s start with an example…
Suppose you are attending a friends birthday party. There are around 200 people in the room. Suddenly, a fire breaks out. What would you do? Most of us would try to run away.Unfortunately, there’s only one exit available. If everyone rushes for the exit together, it’s going to block up. Or in other words – by having everyone move fast, the whole group ends up moving slower.
teamwork vs fire
The flow of people getting out of the room starts to decrease when the mass gets to the door. Eventually, the number of injured people becomes bigger.
So, the conclusion is, the fastest way for everybody to get out of the room is to move slower. In some ways this is quite counter-intuitive, right?
But we find many similar examples in the real world.
For instance, on the roads, our failure to coordinate our objectives and
behaviors results in traffic jams.
On the other hand –  if we take a look at nature, we see many successful examples where a swarming crowd looks like one large entity.
Think of a flock of birds, or a huge school of salmon, moving in harmony. Sometimes the crowd can be made up of millions of individuals.
Psychologists call these kind of group a “smart swarm”.
But what’s the secret of a smart swarm?
Recent research suggests that these animals conduct adaptive assimilation.
That is, they try to adapt their own behavior based on the actions displayed by others close to them.
While the whole crowd sometimes becomes leaderless, they act like one cohesive entity. During this process, they make best use of resources individual members provide.
But can humans do this, and do it effectively? Well, for people, smart swarm behavior can be reduced down to three principles:
  • coordination
  • communication
  • copy


  • Coordination means, we put collective interest first, rather than personal benefits. It means, we develop a task structure. A schedule and a workflow to achieve our collective objectives by realizing that we are interdependent on each other.
  • We also negotiate and constantly communicate with each other to figure out what we need to pay attention to.
  • Finally, we try to learn from others and copy their success.
During this process, norms, climates, and even cultures begin to emerge. 
The group stabilizes around optimum patterns of behavior, and these patterns become part of the collective memory. In the workplace this is a process that brings about effective teamwork.
While it’s easy to say, it’s never easy to implement a smart swarm.
One of the biggest challenges is people in teams often have conflicts. (You could check “What to do when there is a conflict in the team?” from here)



Well… just pick one…



Can you think of a person or organization, that could benefit from this? Share it with them…