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Routines Make Collaboration More Effective

What does it take to collaborate? IMC researchers Riccardo Fusaroli and Kristian Tylén just published a study that systematically investigates the ways we use words, tones of voice and pauses to effectively solve problems together.

Collective problem solving requires routines (ColourBox)
Riccardo Fusaroli, Assistant Professor

Not Just Adaptation

When it comes to building effective structures for collective task performance a certain amount of adaptation and similarity between cooperators is beneficial. That has been known for quite some time. But there's more to efficient cooperation than just adaptation, shows the new study. Developing routines with complementary roles seems to be the most effective strategy. 

Different Roles

"The majority of current approaches focus on people becoming increasingly similar", says Riccardo Fusaroli, assistant professor at the Interacting Minds Center. "I re-use your words and that makes it easier for us to understand each other. You adapt to my tone of voice and it becomes easier for us to prosodically emphasize relevant information, since we use the voice in the same way. However, that’s not the whole story. A conversation in which we just repeat each other would be extremely boring and not that effective.”

The study compares people’s tendency to imitate each other and people’s tendency to develop routines with separate roles. “If I ask you a question, you most often do not answer back with a question", says Kristian Tylén.  - "If you go to the restaurant, you don’t expect the waiter to do the same things as you, or as the chef. You want customer, waiter and chef to do different things to complement each other”. 

Routines More Effective

The results show that while both imitation and routines are good predictors of joint performance, routines are a better one. The study suggests that re-using each other’s linguistic expressions is useful to establish common ground, but ultimately differentiating roles is necessary to reach high levels of efficacy in collective problem solving. The study is part of a larger project investigating the components of effective collaboration. Other articles have focused on the role of individual abilities (BAHRAMI et al. 2010), cross-cultural tendency to give equal decision power even to low-performing participants (MAHMOODI et al 2015), lexical choices and confidence expressions (BANG et al 2014; FUSAROLI et al 2012).