There’s some new research that has some interesting implications for leaders and teams. Researchers found that mixing up students by capability when assigning group projects doesn’t work well for any of them.
The smart kids resent it because they think they’ll carry most of the load. The slowest kids expect to be carried, and odds are good at least one of the average kids will decide to skate. As a teaching technique, those teams taught a lot of the bad stuff we see on teams.
Now the smart folks are suggesting a better way: teams of equals. If you put together a team of high achievers, they’ll spark each other; this is where your innovative leaps will come from. A team of average workers will get a lot done, because there won’t be a “smart kid” to lean on. And a team of less experienced people may not get as much work done, but they’ll learn faster because they’ll all be engaged in noodling through it together.
It’s natural to want to put your sharp people with the new guys when assigning group work, but next time try teams of equals. They won’t all perform the same, but I’ll bet overall your team does better, and they’ll enjoy their work more too.