Understanding the group dynamics and success of teams

Posted on by Brandon Klein

Tackling complex problems often requires coordinated group effort and can consume significant resources, yet our understanding of how teams form and succeed has been limited by a lack of large-scale, quantitative data. We analyze activity traces and success levels for ~150,000 self-organized, online team projects. While larger teams tend to be more successful, the distribution of activity is highly skewed across the team, with only small subsets of members performing most work. This focused centralization in activity indicates that larger teams succeed not simply by distributing workload, but by acting as a support system for a smaller set of core members. High impact teams are significantly more focused than average teams of the same size, yet are more likely to consist of members with diverse experiences, and these members, even non-core members, are more likely to themselves be core members of other teams. This mixture of size, focus, experience, and diversity points to underlying mechanisms that can be used to maximize the success of collaborative endeavors.