Groups of diverse problem solvers can outperform groups of high-ability problem solvers

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2004 Nov 16;101(46):16385-9. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0403723101. Epub 2004 Nov 8.


We introduce a general framework for modeling functionally diverse problem-solving agents. In this framework, problem-solving agents possess representations of problems and algorithms that they use to locate solutions. We use this framework to establish a result relevant to group composition. We find that when selecting a problem-solving team from a diverse population of intelligent agents, a team of randomly selected agents outperforms a team comprised of the best-performing agents. This result relies on the intuition that, as the initial pool of problem solvers becomes large, the best-performing agents necessarily become similar in the space of problem solvers. Their relatively greater ability is more than offset by their lack of problem-solving diversity.