Thanks to DUST!N for drawing my attention to this site, an online whiteboard where people can move letters around. After a mind-numbing few minutes of watching this insanity, it occurred to me that this a perfect example of art immitating life. The process reminds me of how we often behave in meetings and on project teams:

  • In one of the rooms I visited, there were more than 100 people participating. Far too many people form a cohesive team.
  • Nevertheless, there seem to be a few sub-groups that form to work on a pet project. None of these projects have any real relationship to each other — just pockets of self-interests.
  • The sub-groups band together to vigilantly protect their turf and agenda, while outsiders in the room take pleasure in wrecking their progress. In fact, it appears that there are some people who come to the room just to see how much pain they can cause for the others.
  • There seems to be a lot of people in the room, but relatively few people are doing anything productive. Most are just observing, wondering what the heck is going on.
  • People pop in and out all the time. There is no commitment to the room (i.e. project).

If this sounds like I’m cyncical about human behavior, I’m not. Rather, it’s a commentary on how we form and lead teams. We tend to put way too many people in a room to solve a problem; the brilliance or creativeness of the solution is often inversely related to the number of people trying to solve the problem. I think an interesting social experient for would be limit the number of participants in one of the rooms (to, say, ten or so people) and see how much more creative and productive the team becomes.