Sometimes group work is discussed under psychological questions, for example if somebody fits to a group or not. But in reality this question has only a minor priority. Because there is no alternative to group work. Any company and any government organization contains of teams. And if they don’t, they are planing to do so. The reason why is simple. Because team works make it easier to execute repetitive tasks. What the employees are doing all day long is no longer focus the work itself (which is mostly the same), but they are focussed on social aspects. It is some kind of Facebook for adults. In big companies for example, everybody knows everybody, and if not there is ongoing discussion about the reason why. What the employees in daily life are really talking about is the workflow which affects their group. It is not really a private talk which is held on Facebook. But it is a mixed talk between persons who are responsible and work which have to do. This forms some kind of social network which is grouped around companies need. That means it is not a violation of internal rules to form a team and to model a process, but it is main goal of the company.
I want to give an example. If employee A is sending an E-Mail to employees B in which he asks for the current status of a file, it is not a violation of internal e-mails, instead it is called by everybody work. Or to make the point clear, it is naive to assume that a company is not using group work.
But what are the disadvantages for forming a social hierarchy which is full of personal conflicts? There is no disadvantages, it is the right choice for handling tasks which are happening in companies. But let us switch the focus away from companies into the domain of research. Before a new product can be developed somebody has to research it. A look into the 50 Million papers available at Google Scholar will show us, that 99% of them were created by teams of researchers. At least 2 researchers but in most cases, by 4 up to 10. That means, the scientific papers were created with the same principle like a company will organize his accounting department. It is a combination between task specific needs and the ability for individuals to become member of team. In the case of scientific research it is very easy to tell what the limits of workgroups for researchers are. The problem is that they are not thinking out of the box. That means, if the researcher is part of the team he is not able to leave the team. He is some kind of prisoner. The result is an academic publishing system as we see today. That means, the papers are copyright protected and they were only created within research organizations. I’ve found not a single paper at Google Scholar which were written by a team but was created outside of the research-sector.
Somebody may argue, that this is only given by random. But in reality it is the result of teamwork. If the paper writing process was organized as a team, and if the team is part of large company, then the resulting pdf-file is copyright protected. That means, it is some kind of groupworking science what we seen today. Yes, it works very well. A team with 10 people with a different background is a better author than a single author, but the question is not what the quality of a paper is, the question was, what the limits of a group are.
The limits are, that scientific teams have replaced alternatives. That means, research done by professionals which are forming workgroups is the only research available. And if somebody controls the founding he controls the output the teams are producing. Let us observe the latest output from the global workforce of researchers, which was published only 2 days ago, https://arxiv.org/abs/1808.07658 The paper has 8 pages, is about a combination of LSTM neural networks and natural language processing and it’s quality is amazing. That means, the paper is correct, it is easy to read and gets the maximum score.
Let us take a look into authorship. It contains of 5 authors from a professional research organization, located somewhere in the world. That means, the paper was created in a workgroup. They have figured out the title, the text and the figures in a dialog and the paper is the result.
Why was the paper not created by an individual which is located outside of a research organization? Because they can’t. It is not a strict rule which forbids individuals to publish a paper about LSTM networks it is the result of how science is organized. The obvious problems with team oriented science research is, that nobody outside of the small group of researchers is able to reproduce the work. That means, the process knowledge of how to create science papers is not available in the public domain. Sure, the 50 Million papers at Google Scholar can be downloaded, but the only group of person who is able to create them are 10 million people, called researchers which are organized in teams and who are working outside of normal society.
It is not possible to criticize the paper on a topic level. Everything what we can read in it is correct, the problem is, that around 6.9 billion people are not able to write such a paper. Either they can’t speak English, or if they do, they are not familiar with LSTM networks. And that is a direct result of group working in the research sector. For the research sector itself, group working is great. It simplifies the workflow and let the researcher work more efficient. They are not only involved in interesting topics, they are also part of a group, which give them identity. The problem is that nobody else outside of research can profit from it.
Let us go back to the beginning of the posting. Today’s work is organized in groups. That is true for standard workflows in companies for example in the banking sector, but it is also the case for research projects. Group working supports the needs of large organizations. It makes companies more productive, and research organizations more innovative. The problems with workgroups is, that they have a tendency for building a circle around the organization. In the example of normal companies this is not a problem. The public doesn’t need to know who exactly the workflow in a certain bank is, or what an employee earns. And even if the public knows it, nobody cares. That means, the office in the chase Manhatton Bank doesn’t look very different from the office at Enron. And all what a company is producing is money and goods. Both of them is well known.
But what happens if a resarch organisation is forming a team and the public doesn’t know what the team has figured out. The aim of science workgroup is not to create money or to produce consumer products, their output has to do with knowledge. The value of knowledge is higher then what the Chase Manhattan Bank has to offer. Protecting the knowledge makes sense, or to be more specific it makes sense for the workgroup which has created it. And this is the problem. The public has a need for advanced knowledge, while the groups who have created it, have the need to protect the knowledge. They are releasing only the final product, called the paper but nothing more.
The alternative is discussed under the term “Open science” since around 10 years. The idea is not only to publish a paper, but also reduce the amount of team work. This would help to transfer the knowledge into the public. The problem with todays science research is, that their productivity is a bit too high. That means, if we are putting 5 researchers in a group, give them enough sleep and a goal, they will find an answer for everything. If they know each other it will help a lot. They are working better in a team then alone. The problem is, that they like it a bit too much. That means, group working has to much advantages for an organization and for an individual that he evaluates an alternative. The result is known. It is called the knowledge gap. That means, the worldwide 10 million researchers know everything about everything, but the rest of the population is watching comedy shows in the television about a tragic figure called Sheldon Cooper. They are laughing about him, but they don’t know why.
Let us talk about how important groups are for researchers. In the famous Academia forum it is possible to make all the postings visible which are about group working, https://academia.stackexchange.com/search?q=group Right now, more than 5000 postings are online. That means, all the researchers are in groups, and if not they are planning so. It is possible for everybody to join a group and write together with experienced researchers a paper? Technically it is possible. According to my knowledge, they are using normal e-mail clients, and most of them are running under Windows 10 operating system. They are sending back and forth messages. But from a social perspective the situation is a bit different. It is only possible to become member of a group, if at least the phd title was given to a person by a university. I’ve never heard, that a non-researcher has attended a research group.
Assume the case, that a company is forced to not using teamwork, assume the case that a research organization is also prohibited to form teams. Are both happy with it? No, because teamwork is a very powerful tool. It improves productivity and creates a stable situation. Using not teamwork is similar to not using a helping hand. This will not work.