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**An experimental study of team size and performance on a complex task** *Andrew Mao, Winter Mason, Siddharth Suri, Duncan J. Watts* The relationship between team size and productivity is a question of broad relevance across economics, psychology, and management science. For complex tasks, however, where both the potential benefits and costs of coordinated work increase with the number of workers, neither theoretical arguments nor empirical evidence consistently favor larger vs. smaller teams. Experimental findings, meanwhile, have relied on small groups and highly stylized tasks, hence are hard to generalize to realistic settings. Here we narrow the gap between real-world task complexity and experimental control, reporting results from an online experiment in which 47 teams of size ranging from n = 1 to 32 collaborated on a realistic crisis mapping task. We find that individuals in teams exerted lower overall effort than independent workers, in part by allocating their effort to less demanding (and less productive) sub-tasks; however, we also find that individuals in teams collaborated more with increasing team size. Directly comparing these competing effects, we find that the largest teams outperformed an equivalent number of independent workers, suggesting that gains to collaboration dominated losses to effort. Importantly, these teams also performed comparably to a field deployment of crisis mappers, suggesting that experiments of the type described here can help solve practical problems as well as advancing the science of collective intelligence.
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