Sunday, May 15, 2016

Power Lunch Sunday

You can chew on it if you like:

"When powerful people work together" by Harvard Business Review   May 07, 2016

All too commonly, we see groups of leaders fail to accomplish their goals — legislators who cannot agree on a bill, heads of state who cannot broker meaningful peace deals, or boards of directors who make disastrous decisions for their companies. Why do powerful people, when working together, fail as often as they do?

This question is particularly vexing because researchers have long found power to boost individual performance in a variety of ways. When people work alone, feeling powerful helps them process information more effectively, think more creatively, and focus for longer stretches of time. 


Then why is the blog the product of diminishing returns? 

If power enhances individual performance, then by extension one would assume that groups comprising high-power individuals would perform particularly well. But our research found the opposite: Power hampers the ability of leaders to work with other leaders.

In a series of experiments, we brought more than a thousand participants — students and executives — into our laboratory and videotaped their behavior as they worked on a variety of tasks on their own or in groups. The tasks were designed to mimic those that leaders might face in their day-to-day work: Some tasks tested creativity and persistence, while others tested decision-making and the ability to reach agreement in complex negotiations.

In one experiment, we randomly assigned students to the roles of either a leader, worker, or a control condition. In the first phase of the experiment, each leader was given power over a worker — evaluating the worker’s performance and deciding how much money the worker would receive for completing a task. Control participants simply worked together as peers with equal power. In the next phase of the experiment, we reorganized participants into groups of three and had them work on a creativity task in which they designed a new product. Leaders worked with leaders, workers with workers, and control participants with other control participants. Which groups were the most creative? Independent judges rated groups of leaders to be the least creative of all groups. Their product ideas were the least innovative and the most uninspired. Particularly striking is that this effect emerged even though power makes people more creative when working alone.

This pattern emerged consistently across studies. When more powerful individuals worked alone or on tasks that required less coordination with others, they performed better than anyone else; but when they worked together on tasks that required more coordination with others, those same powerful individuals performed worse than others.

In another study, we brought executives into the laboratory and assigned them to groups of four, based on their actual power in their organization. The four most powerful executives were assigned to the first group, the next four most powerful executives to the second group, and so on. This time we had the executives take part in a negotiation where they were tasked with reaching agreement on which of four candidates should be hired for a senior management position. Again, we found that groups of the most powerful executives underperformed relative to groups of less powerful executives: Only 41 percent of groups comprising the most powerful executives reached agreement. In contrast, 88 percent of groups comprising the least powerful executives reached agreement.

Why did groups of leaders fail so consistently? Videotapes of the group members’ interactions revealed some fascinating answers. Across studies, groups of leaders performed worse in part because their members fought over who should have higher status than others in the group — who should get to call the shots, who should have more influence over the group’s decisions, and who should command more respect than others. This conflict over status harmed their ability to work together effectively.

It took a study to figure out that centuries-old dynamic responsible for much of the world's misery?


I put this at the bottom of today's pos posts because I quit blogging by noon now to prepare my meal.