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Description: If a group or team is faced with solving a complicated problem what sorts of factors do you think might be important in making sure that there is an appropriate balance between exploration (looking for possible solutions) and exploitation (working on a particular possible solution)? How might these factors vary if the group is working remotely while connecting through meeting sites, email and other forms of media? After you come up with a hypothesis or two, read through the article linked below which focuses on research into these particular questions and see if you are thinking about this problem in the same way as the researchers in the study reported in the linked article.

Source: When a group must solve hard problems, it’s best to design the team around its learning style, Santa Fe Institute, Science News, ScienceDaily.


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Date: October 11, 2016

Links:  Article Link —

The answers to questions posed above involve looking at the nature of the match between the particular group or team’s social learning style and the type of network within which they are working and engaging with one another as they work to solve the problem at hand. So for example, whether adopting the best strategy presented so far across all group members or adopting a strategy that has been chosen (endorsed) by the most other members of the group is the best strategy varies depending on the speed of the network over which the group is collaborating. Picking the best strategy suggested so far tends to move the group towards quicker decisions and less exploration of alternatives especially on networks where information flow is rapid. Slower information flow on the other hand provides more opportunity for adjustment of the chosen strategy before it becomes implemented. Likewise if the group has to wait to see what other collaborators think before deciding on the available options that provides opportunity for greater exploration and produces a broader array of potentially better solutions. The authors of the research article indicate that if managers want to change the nature of the decision processes that the teams are using they need to pay attention to both the preferred strategies of the teams members as well as to the advantages or limitations of the communications network though which the group is working.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What are the important factors in determining how groups are arriving at problem solutions?
  2. What sort of things do you find yourself doing when you have to make a decision to ensure a balance between exploration and exploitation?
  3. Can you think of some examples of the ways in which groups that you’ve been involved in proceeded differently and produce different outcomes based on different former qualities of the intergroup communication?

References (Read Further):

Daniel Barkoczi, Mirta Galesic. Social learning strategies modify the effect of network structure on group performance. Nature Communications, 2016; 7: 13109