Silence is Golden: Communication Costs and Team Problem Solving
- Author(s): Charness, Gary
- Cooper, David
- Grossman, Zachary
- et al.
Numerous studies have compared the performance of individuals and teams at solving intellective problems. The ubiquitous finding in the economics literature is that teams out-perform individuals. This result is intuitively appealing, as teams can benefit from sharing insights. We analyze experiments comparing the performance of teams and individuals at solving a series of challenging logic puzzles. Contrary to the existing literature, individuals meet or exceed the performance of teams on all measures. If we impose a small cost of communication on teams, the performance of teams improves to closely resemble the performance of individuals. Underlying these results is a definite negative relationship between frequency of communication and team performance. We also document a strong gender effect. Teams with more women perform considerably better even though men slightly outperform women when solving the puzzles individually.