I think most of us know that collaboration in the workplace produces better results than no collaboration. That is why so many software applications have been developed to enhance the collaborative effort. New research, however, shows us that it is not just the collaboration effort, it is also who is participating in the collaboration.
So who does it better?
Erik Larson, the founder of Cloverpop, writer, speaker, researcher, and general Renaissance man, asked the question “Is it better to have “up-and-comers” or “more seasoned” employees making decisions at your company?” The answer you give to that question may depend on which group you place yourself in. Many start-ups are made up of the “up-and-comer” types and they may think they do the best job. If you are of the “more seasoned” variety and you have a significant dusting of grey in your hair, you may think that your acquired wisdom entitles you to be deemed the better ones to make the decisions. In both cases, they would be wrong. Larson’s research has found that:
Decision-making teams that include a wide range of younger –and-older employees significantly outperform more narrowly young or old teams. These multi-generation teams are more likely to identify better choices and deliver results that meet or exceed expectations.
Collaboration’s benefits were known
It is fairly well understood that team effort outweighs the individual efforts. What was surprising to Larson was the effect of age. He found that :
“Younger teams made decisions with 40% more positive outcomes than older teams. Decision outcomes for “younger” teams with a median age below 35 met or exceeded expectations 62% of the time, and “older” teams with a median age above 45 did so 44% of the time (p=0.07).”
Now that sounds impressive. But even more impressive is when you construct a team that has an age range of 25 years from the youngest to the oldest. These team met or exceeded expectations 73% of the time. Significantly better than any other constructed team.
Constructing a team
The mistake that many companies make is often ignoring younger employees when putting together a team. And if that is not the mistake then the other one they make is that they ignore the opinion or observations of the younger members of the team. Trust and difficulty in communication are often the factors in these mistakes being made. They found that it is the biases of the older workers that were the problem in this lack of trust and communication.
Larson suggests that using tools that all members of the team to make suggestions or offer solutions on a problem before it is discovered who made the suggestion may help overcome some of these biases. This could open channels of communication and cooperation as the collaboration process begins.
When you are putting together teams to solve problems don’t forget to be multi-generational in your selection process. Make sure there is a wide and broad range of ages represented. Work to set aside your biases about each other, even if it takes a process that hides initial points of view. This type of collaborative effort is the future of work teams.