GROUP GENIUS: New and Improved!

A new version of the book Group Genius has just been published! I’ve updated every chapter and page, and I’ve written a new chapter on how social media drives collaborative creativity.

Group Genius, first published in 2007, showed that creativity is always collaborative–even when you’re alone. Back in 2007, it was pretty radical to claim that collaboration drives innovation. The accepted wisdom was that brilliant people came up with creative ideas all by themselves. Business leaders competed to hire the most creative professionals—offering free lunch, day care, and ping pong tables. They were convinced that they needed special geniuses to generate innovation. Most creativity advice books told people how to come up with better ideas.

Now, ten years later, the evidence for the creative power of collaboration is overwhelming. In 2015, a majority of executives say more collaboration leads to greater profits. In 2016, the Harvard Business Review reported that employee collaboration time was way up in the last two decades—from 50 percent to as much as 80 percent. In 2016, the New York Times wrote that “teams are now the fundamental unit of organization.” Today everyone agrees that collaboration is the key to innovation.

But there’s a problem: It turns out that it’s hard to collaborate successfully. Brainstorming is a good example: Numerous studies have shown that this popular technique is usually a waste of time. There’s so much ineffective collaboration and bad teamwork that there’s been a backlash. Susan Cain’s bestseller Quiet argues that when people spend time alone, they’re more effective, more creative, and more successful. She calls the increasing emphasis on teamwork “The New Groupthink.” The truth is that, despite the proliferation of advice in the business press, many companies don’t know how to foster creative collaboration.

Here’s where the research comes in. My research has shown that only certain kinds of collaboration work in the real world—improvisations that are guided and planned, but in a way that doesn’t kill the power of improvisation to generate unexpected insights. Fortunately, today’s research tells us how. For example, I show that improvised innovation is more likely to work when a group experiences group flow—the group equivalent of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s famous “flow” state, when we perform at our peak and lose track of time. Most teams never experience group flow; knowing the research will help you attain this peak experience. And I show how to build brainstorming groups that realize their full creative potential.

Today’s Internet tools make collaboration easier than ever: Slack, Google Plus+, WebEx, Basecamp…the list grows longer every month. Critical business functions have migrated into the cloud, allowing everyone to work together more efficiently and access the same data. Social media like Facebook, Instagram, Vine, and Pinterest expand our social networks and bring us together in groups that include millions. More than ever before, we need to understand how to harness these tools to foster creative collaboration.

While doing research for this second edition, I bought so many books about collaboration that I had to buy another bookshelf. Just last month, another book about collaboration appeared, with almost exactly the same argument: The Knowledge Illusion: Why We Never Think Alone. But while reading these books, I discovered that some of the most exciting research on group creativity goes unnoticed. That’s why I’ve written this second edition—to share the surprising insights of the science of collaboration. In this new edition, I bring together research on face-to-face collaboration, everyday conversation, and even jazz, theater, and basketball teams, as well as the latest science of Internet-based collaboration. This research shows how we can use social media and business productivity apps to bring us together in ways that build on our deeply human need for collaboration.

Take a look at the new book: http://www.groupgenius.net

7 thoughts on “GROUP GENIUS: New and Improved!

  1. That’s great–congrats on the updated book! I’ve ordered a copy. Obviously haven’t read it yet, but do you think a Fortune 500 company and its teams would be able to collaborate in way analogous to say a basketball team or a jazz ensemble? (Even with these next gen tools?) Maybe that’s why we read about start-ups sending teams to South America for ayahuasca trips… All the best

    1. Yes, absolutely, even a big company can foster this type of improvisational collaboration. That’s one of the key messages of my book: how senior management can make that happen.

  2. We work with something similar in our company and call it the 3 Ts – Trust, Teams and Testing. It’s loosely based on the web design strategies of Minimum Viable Products and the old addage of Fail Often and Fail Smal.

    We’re a medical innovation firm, so obviously prototyping plays a big part in our work, but by giving our people more of a say in early stage work I believe we produce far better final products…

  3. Thanks Keith,
    I continue to go back to your book as we build out our software for collaborating teams (in marketing). So thank you for all of your work to create this book. The invisible collaborative web is probably the most powerful concept as it seems to be the hardest and most intangible idea to express in product development.

    I guess my comment, in general, is that it’s hard for people to not bring context to the evaluation of creative ideas – so we’re trying to assist by templating ways help with their judgement, for example, ICE (Is it IMPACTFUL, Are we CONFIDENT we can execute on it and how EASY is it to execute).

    HBR wrote an article back in 2014 by Sunstein, et al. re: how to stop group think. https://hbr.org/2014/12/making-dumb-groups-smarter#comment-section Just passing it along if you haven’t read it…Alison

  4. I have just finished reading the first edition of Group Think and am incredibly excited to now find out that you’ve an updated second edition I can read too! Although I kind of wish I’d found the second edition first! Though I am so very grateful to you for validating my belief and work that collaboration is everything. For the last two years my team and I have been developing an app for mass collaboration to solve world issues. We call it http://www.anewmission.org and we’re about to go live in beta. I would very much appreciate talking to you Mr Sawyer if you could spare the time one day? Thank you for your amazing insights. 🙏🏼

    1. That’s really cool, thank you for sharing the link. About the book GROUP GENIUS, yes the second edition 2017 is radically updated! So much has happened in the past ten years, with new collaboration software apps, and lots of innovation successes that came from groups and networks.

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