The infinite monkey theorum suggests that if you give a team of monkey’s enough time they’ll eventually reproduce a work of Shakespearean quality. Of course each of the monkey’s would be working on their own, with little collaboration between them.
The blogging world often seems similar to this, with writers typically toiling on their own to produce their masterpieces (myself included). Even on professional media sites with paid journalists, there is very little collaboration between writers, which is perhaps not all that surprising. After all, the kudos for a well written piece typically goes to the person who’s name sits alongside it.
Even on this very website, which is designed to showcase the wonderful possibilities that exist for social media tools to help our companies do things better, we have very little input from our fellow bloggers on the articles we create for the site.
Research by the University of London suggests there may be a better way – with some pleasing side effects into the bargain. The research revolves around the Too Many Cooks project, which takes a collaborative approach to writing a novel. The challenge asks participants to complete their novel in just 5 days.
They spent one day planning their story and devising a plot, just two days to write the novel, and the final two days proofreading and editing before it was sent to the printers.
So did it work?
Well you can see for yourself, because the book is available on Amazon as an ebook. What’s interesting though is that the project had many ancillary benefits aside from the production of the book.
As the lead researcher said: “We were looking at a number of outcomes such as self-esteem, initiative, conceptions of success and interpersonal skills including team work. We ask young people questions about their skills and feelings at the beginning of the week and again at the end to allow us to examine how participating in the project may influence them.”
He continues: “One of our key measures is locus of control – whether students believe they are in control of their life or if things just happen to them. We are examining whether working on a project like this leads students to feel more in control over what happens to them and that they can succeed if they are willing to put in the effort to do so. If this is the case then we would expect that in the future they would be more likely to take the initiative to make things they want happen for themselves.”
Whilst they are still analyzing the results of the project, the initial findings suggest that collaborative projects such as this help to raise aspirations, initiative and social skills.
Maybe this research will herald a new age of collaborative writing here at Social Business News, but it could have some good lessons for you in your own work too. The side effects of this project seem beyond doubt, I’ll leave the quality of the end product for you to decide.