From The Atlantic:
With the emerging dialogue in the popular press and blogosphere about fostering creativity in business, there is no lack of desire for collective creativity. Take this recent quote by Bruce Nussbaum about looking beyond fostering "design thinking" and instead encouraging "creative Intelligence":
I am defining Creative Intelligence as the ability to frame problems in new ways and to make original solutions. You can have a low or high ability to frame and solve problems, but these two capacities are key and they can be learned.... It is a sociological approach in which creativity emerges from group activity, not a psychological approach of development stages and individual genius.
Yes, group activity can provide the impetus for better framing of problems, which can lead to original solutions. But creativity is the "end result of many forms of intelligence coming together, and intelligence born out of collaboration and out of networks," to quote one of my co-workers, Robert Fabricant. When we collaborate with different kinds of thinkers, sometimes from different cultures and backgrounds, we individually struggle with ingrained behaviors that reduce our likelihood of manifesting creativity.
One of the more disturbing memes I’ve come across in college is the idea that somehow group work is superior to individual effort, particularly in the realm of creativity. In fact, professors show a cult-like devotion to group work. Most of the reasons professors offer for the need for group work smell strongly of bovine fecal matter.
The most common rationale for group work is that students need to learn how to work in groups. Frankly, this reason is simply insulting. I’m not a sociopath or retarded. I’m actually quite capable of interacting with others when I need to. Thus, it’s insulting to insinuate that, as a legal adult, I do not know how to work in a group even though I passed kindergarten with flying colors.
Within this rationale is the implicit goal of acclimating students to yielding to group norms. This was generally an issue for me since most of my classmates were idiots. I generally refused to follow others in the group when they proposed asinine ideas or tried to divvy up the work in ways that stuck me with a large amount of work. Fortunately, I was quite skilled at winning power battles, so I was pretty much the leader of every group I was in, with one exception. Incidentally, I earned an A on every group assignment. The lesson I took away from all of this is that a successful group is one that follows my lead.
Even with that, though, I still hated group work because it was generally a waste of time. For the most part, I was quite capable of completing an entire group’s worth of work by myself in half the time it would have taken the entire group. Group papers were especially wasteful because I spent more time editing the papers, begging for sources, and formatting the paper than I would have spent if I simply wrote the paper myself (and I know this for a fact because I was ghostwriting papers for other students at this time).
The thing I disliked most about group work was that it was generally unnecessary. It was as if professors were turning a one man job into a six man job. The reason for this, of course, was that professors would have fewer papers to grade. Thus, a large amount of my time was wasted because my professors were too lazy to evaluate their own students individually.
Another thing I dislike about group work is that it allows some to ride on the coattails of others. This was especially true when professors decided to select groups themselves. No one had any choice in group mates, so the lazy ones could slack off and profit from the efforts of others. Why professors thought this was a good idea is beyond me.
Finally, the whole notion that group leads to better results is laughable on its face. There are specific factors and conditions that enable some groups to achieve better results than individuals, and professors almost never replicate those conditions. Successful groups need to have people who, for starters, know what they’re talking about. They also need people who have self-discipline. Most groups in college lack people with those characteristics. As such, most group work consists of lots of complaining and shared ignorance. This isn’t exactly a recipe for success.
Also, professors try to make things more profound than they actually are, but that’s a post for another day.
As it stands, group work is an unfortunate trend that is handled poorly by academia, and yields counterproductive results. It is often the mark of a lazy and/or stupid professor. It should be avoided at all costs. Kids these days are already lazy enough. There’s no need to capitulate to the worst among them, particularly in such a Marxist fashion.