In school, group projects were always a disaster. One control freak, two slackers, and you, who just wanted a good grade. (I'm assuming that Inc. readers were the good students.) But what if there were a group art project and no boss? Reddit found out and it turns out that it's awesome.
For April Fool's Day, Reddit came up with an art project with a twist. You could only add one pixel at a time and you had to wait several minutes between pixels. With millions of people participating, you couldn't just claim a corner of your own and place pixels to make a picture of your choice.
According to Sudoscript, it started as you'd expect, with people just placing random dots, but then pictures began to form. Groups began to take off (and of course, the first picture made by a group was inappropriate for Inc audiences). Somebody suggested using a grid to assign out parts, and a major work of art was formed.
There were conflicts (including a battle between people making a French flag and people making a German flag, where eventually--could it be any other way--the German flag took over). There were people who wanted it NSFW (not safe for work) and people who wanted it to be appropriate for all ages and bosses.
What do we learn from this? Well, a few things.
1. Even when there are no assigned leaders, someone will step up to the plate and take that role and people will follow.
Of course, in this case, there were many people who stepped us as leaders in many different groups, but they were able to pull a huge group of people together to painstakingly pixelate a flag or the Mona Lisa.
2. You get a lot more done when you can agree on a plan.
If no groups had agreed on anything you would have ended up with a jumble of colors. But with a plan and a team? Anything appears to be possible.
3. Slackers just disappeared.
Anyone who's worked on a group project with people who won't pull their own weight probably wished that the slackers would fade into the background, but unfortunately, you have to push and pull and complain to management about them. In this project, if you weren't dedicated, you just disappeared. Putting up one pixel and then going away for a couple hours meant your contribution would be erased by someone else. People with a dedicated group could make amazing things happen.
4. Millions of brains are better than one.
No one could make this happen on their own. it required working together, even though different groups fought against each other. The ideas that came out, in the end, were fantastic. Granted, it's not the actual Mona Lisa, but it's an amazing work of art. Sometimes working alone is great. Sometimes, it's better to work in a team.
5. People will rise to the challenge.
Reddit didn't pay people. They didn't assign managers. They gave a blank canvas and let people go. They rose to the challenge beautifully. Maybe you should let your team have a shot at success as well.
Hat tip: Ann Althouse.