Why being social makes people work better.

It’s a fairly common belief that people are at their most efficient when locked into solitary confinement, alone and able to work without distraction.  I am coming to a growing conclusion that this is utterly false, and a terrible away to create efficiency.  This is because of my experience with studio.  It is not a stretch to say that architects are some of the hardest working college students ever.  Even the laziest still work harder than your average student.  (This is not to say other majors don’t have hard workers. But architecture has a not subtle way of weeding out the weak.  It’s called manual rep.)  We have to learn productivity early on, and be able to sit at a desk and work for days at a time.

We work hard.  This does not mean we are not the loud.  We talk, we argue, we play music, watch movies, yell some more, move around, discuss, advise, laugh and generally interact constantly.  You squish 100 people in a room without real walls for 3 days and shit goes down.  Yet somehow we are the best workers on campus.  So, old theory, I don’t think you are correct.

My idol Steven Johnson discusses this with actual articulation in his book “Where Good Ideas Come From”, in which he clearly and logically insists that collaboration is the key to good ideas.  And here is my new favorite example.  Apparently scientists were having a party and decided to expand their experiment to testing the alcohol, which worked really well.  Gizmodo is amused that alcohol created productivity.  But I don’t think it was the alcohol, or not just the alcohol.  I think it was the the more relaxed discussion allowed the scientists to think past their self-imposed experimental constraints and try something new.  And it worked.  I’m not saying that people need to drink more (although I’m sure my fellow architects would love partying regularly in studio).  I’m saying people need to talk more.  “Chance favors the connected mind” -Johnson

Drunk scientists pour wine on superconductors and make an incredible discovery. [Gizmodo]

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