The formation of creative teams

In a recent paper published in Science Guimerà and colleagues use network theory to investigate what makes teams sparklingly creative as compared to those less inventive. The authors use large datasets on producers of Broadway musicals and authors of scientific papers in Economics, Ecology, Social Psychology and Astronomy to document the character of successful teams. Factors that seem of importance include the fraction of veteran members of a team, as well as the extent to which veterans involve their former collaborators.

From Barabàsis analysis of the authors results:

To comprehend the structure of the collaboration map, we must understand how people form friendships and alliances. Given that in the professional world friendships are just as crucial as hard-nosed professional interests, modeling the evolution of creative teams may appear to be impossible. Guimeraà’s results indicate otherwise: They show that a simple model successfully captures many qualitative features of the network underlying the creative enterprise. In their study, they distinguish between veterans, who have participated in collaborations before, and rookies, who are about to see their names appear in print for the first time. Two parameters are key: the fraction of veteran members in a new team, and the degree to which veterans involve their former collaborators. If choosing experienced veterans is not a priority, the authors find that the network will be broken up into many small teams with little overlap between them. As the likelihood of relying on veterans increases, thanks to the extra links to earlier collaborators, the teams coalesce through a phase transition such that all players become part of a single cluster.

The results of the Guimerà et al. study indicate that expertise does matter: Teams publishing in highimpact journals have a high fraction of incumbents. But diversity matters too: Teams with many former collaborative links offer inferior performance. Thus, the recipe for success seems relatively simple: When forming a “dream team” make an effort to include the most experienced people, whether or not you have worked with them before. But diversity matters too: Teams with many former collaborative links offer inferior performance. Thus, the recipe for success seems relatively simple: When forming a “dream team” make an effort to include the most experienced people, whether or not you have worked with them before.

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