The Strength of the Strongest Ties in Collaborative Problem Solving

Yves-Alexandre de Montjoye, Arkadiusz Stopczynski, Erez Shmueli, Alex Pentland & Sune Lehmann in Nature (Scientific Reports) : “Complex problem solving in science, engineering, and business has become a highly collaborative endeavor. Teams of scientists or engineers collaborate on projects using their social networks to gather new ideas and feedback. Here we bridge the literature on team performance and information networks by studying teams’ problem solving abilities as a function of both their within-team networks and their members’ extended networks. We show that, while an assigned team’s performance is strongly correlated with its networks of expressive and instrumental ties, only the strongest ties in both networks have an effect on performance. Both networks of strong ties explain more of the variance than other factors, such as measured or self-evaluated technical competencies, or the personalities of the team members. In fact, the inclusion of the network of strong ties renders these factors non-significant in the statistical analysis. Our results have consequences for the organization of teams of scientists, engineers, and other knowledge workers tackling today’s most complex problems.”