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If You Want Creative Solutions, Keep Your Team Small

By Scientific American

February 20, 2020

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An almost universal trend in science today is the growth and prominence of large teams and the receding presence of small teams and solitary researchers. To be sure some highly complex scientific research requires massive numbers of participants.

However, recent research shows that the dominance of larger over smaller groups comes at a cost to innovation and creativity. The work is described in "Large Teams Develop and Small Teams Disrupt Science and Technology," published in the journal Nature. The researchers analyzed over 65 million papers, patents, and software products produced during 1954–2014, to study the implications of team size on productivity. They found that relative to larger teams, smaller teams' work was more "disruptive."

The researchers found that as size increased from one to 50 members, level of disruptiveness plummeted. Moreover, they found that size itself, rather than confounding factors, such as differences in topic or type of research design, explained the differences.

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