7 Studies That Prove People Work Better in Teams

Ian Giles
Ian Giles
Feb 14, 2017 · 5 min read
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1. Floyd Allport: The social facilitation effect

In 1920, social psychologist Floyd Allport found that people worked better in teams even if they weren’t collaborating, competing, or actively communicating with each other. This finding came to be known as the “social facilitation” effect, which, as Lifehacker notes, proves how “the mere presence of other people engaged in the same task as us can boost our motivation.”

2. Oxford University: Row, baby, row

In 2009, researchers at Oxford University found that “team players can tolerate twice as much pain as those who work alone.” They made this discovery by observing the Oxford University rowing team during two 45-minute training sessions. Evidently, the rowers exhibited a greater pain threshold after training together than when they went through the same routines individually. To make sure their results were sound, the researchers even repeated the study the following week and found the same outcomes.

3. Harvard University: You look familiar

In 2006, researchers at Harvard University found that heart surgeons’ performance improved when they worked with their standard team in their usual hospital. On the other hand, this improvement wasn’t evident when the doctors worked with unfamiliar colleagues in different settings — such as when they filled in for other surgeons — even if they were familiar with those settings.

4. MIT Sloan: So happy (not) together

In 2009, a study from MIT Sloan showed that virtual teams actually perform better than teams working in the same location — that is, if they have the proper communication and collaboration tools. The report states: “Even the smallest degrees of dispersion, such as working on different floors in the same building, can greatly affect the quality of collaboration…. Such geographically distributed teams have commonly been referred to as ‘virtual’ teams, but that label is something of a misnomer, because these groups are very real with respect to the work they can accomplish.”

5. Silicon Valley: Mo’ teamwork, mo’ money

In 2012, Google launched Project Aristotle, a bold initiative that set out to discover how to build the perfect team. While the researchers’ findings weren’t as conclusive as they might’ve hoped, they did report that “psychological safety” was an incredibly important aspect to fostering teamwork. That is, team members need to feel comfortable enough to take risks, make mistakes, and voice their opinions.

6. Peter Kuhn: Et tu, Brute?

In 2013, Peter Kuhn, an economics professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, found that placing too much emphasis on individual performance can actually be damaging to company culture. As Business Insider reported, “It may create a culture of back-stabbing and colleagues hoarding information from one another.”

7. Marjorie E. Shaw: Riddle me this

In 1932, social psychologist Marjorie E. Shaw conducted an experiment for an article called, “A Comparison of Individuals and Small Groups in the Rational Solution of Complex Problems.” The setup: Participants were given a set of riddles to solve; some were instructed to work alone while others worked in groups of four. As a result, she found that the groups accurately solved more riddles than the individuals, proving the effect that teamwork can have on productivity and efficiency.

Bonus: Debunking “social loafing”

Here’s a common argument against team productivity: If you group people together in a team, they’ll be inclined to loaf off and not work as hard. However, a 1996 study by Stroebe, Diehl, and Abakoumkin found quite the opposite to be true. After conducting an experiment in which participants turned a wheel with a brake for 10 minutes, they discovered the following:

  • When two people of differing abilities work together, the weaker one’s performance increases by more than 10%.

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Ian Giles

Written by

Ian Giles

VP of Content @crossover4work responsible for creating and curating epic content that attracts thousands of candidates per week.

The Crossover Blog

Welcome to the future of work. The Crossover blog is your resource for staying up to date on topics that matter in the modern workplace-like tech skills, remote work, recruiting insights, and more. Learn more about Crossover and browse remote tech jobs at www.crossover.com.

Ian Giles

Written by

Ian Giles

VP of Content @crossover4work responsible for creating and curating epic content that attracts thousands of candidates per week.

The Crossover Blog

Welcome to the future of work. The Crossover blog is your resource for staying up to date on topics that matter in the modern workplace-like tech skills, remote work, recruiting insights, and more. Learn more about Crossover and browse remote tech jobs at www.crossover.com.

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