Monday, December 21, 2015

Competition Reduces Performance of Teams

Excellent new book -- Humans Are Underrated: What High Achievers Know that Brilliant Machines Never Will, by Geoff Colvin -- with a fascinating analysis of the increasing capabilities of computers, including even creativity, and a great discussion of what capabilities are likely to stay entirely human.

Regarding new "education reform" policies like merit pay, ranking of teachers, and encouragement of competition in general, it's interesting and instructive to consider Colvin's analysis of the research:

"Competing for status poisoned a group's effectiveness regardless of gender composition. . . More ideas and better judgments -- those are what make groups effective.  But when group members can compete for status, the female advantage [in terms of social sensitivity and ability to develop productive relationships that increase a group's collective intelligence], at least in creating collective intelligence,, gets shut down. . .  In real-world settings, group incentives thus become crucially important. . . whether it actually happens [group composition leading to effectiveness] depends on whether group members are given incentives to try to outdo one another.  Not even ancient, inherent strengths can survive bad management." 

It's been shown time and again that schools are more effective when educators work collaboratively, and there is no research indicating that competition among teachers increases effectiveness.  Yet again another "reform" based only on the unsupported beliefs of a few powerful people.

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