The Importance of Pairwork in Interdisciplinary and Educational Initiatives

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The importance of teamwork is much remarked, but in moving from the individual work of the cold war to the teamwork of the quality revolution, the critical importance of teams of size n=2 has been overlooked. This presentation at the 2009 IEEE Frontiers of Education Conference in San Antonio, TX builds qualitative and little quantitative models of pairwork and recommends that pairwork be more carefully considered, especially in creative and interdisciplinary activities.

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The Importance of Pairwork in Interdisciplinary and Educational Initiatives

  1. 1. The Importance of Pairwork in Interdisciplinary and Educational Initiatives David E. Goldberg Illinois Foundry for Innovation in Engineering Education University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Urbana, IL 61801 USA [email_address] & www.ifoundry.illinois.edu
  2. 2. Motivation <ul><li>Georges Harik, early Google employee, gave talk at Illinois in 2008 as part of Engineering & Technology Studies at Illinois series ( here ). </li></ul><ul><li>Asserted that pairs in startups 20x more productive than singletons. </li></ul><ul><li>Intellectual smack upside the head for me: Four experiences of pairwork in educational and interdisciplinary initiatives. </li></ul><ul><li>Observed that from cold war to quality revolution moved from lone engineers to teamwork. </li></ul><ul><li>Wondered two things: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Is pairwork undervalued with respect to teamwork? Went from 1  n, but skipped 2. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Could qualitative and little quantitative models recover Harik’s 20x boost? </li></ul></ul>(c) 2008 David E. Goldberg
  3. 3. Roadmap <ul><li>Great pairs in history. </li></ul><ul><li>Invisible pairs. </li></ul><ul><li>Complementary skills only part of the story. </li></ul><ul><li>A sixfold qualitative theory of pairwork. </li></ul><ul><li>Crossing qual-quant divide  3 little models (LMs). </li></ul><ul><li>Personal reflections on pairwork. </li></ul><ul><li>Academic & managerial implications of theory. </li></ul>(c) 2008 David E. Goldberg
  4. 4. Great Pairs in Tech History <ul><li>Wilbur & Orville Wright: Powered flight. </li></ul><ul><li>David Packard and Bill Hewlett: HP. </li></ul><ul><li>John C. & James F. Lincoln Brothers: Lincoln Arc Welding. </li></ul><ul><li>Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak: Apple Computer. </li></ul><ul><li>Larry Page and Sergey Brin: Google. </li></ul><ul><li>Great founding pairs not evidence of pairwork by itself. </li></ul>(c) 2008 David E. Goldberg Wilbur Wright Orville Wright
  5. 5. Invisible Pairs <ul><li>Great “lone” inventors often surrounded by individuals to complement skills. </li></ul><ul><li>Call these invisible pairs. </li></ul><ul><li>Example: Thomas A. Edison. </li></ul><ul><li>Edison had many important assistants: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>William J. Hammer </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Charles Batchelor </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Samuel Insull </li></ul></ul>(c) 2008 David E. Goldberg Thomas A. Edison (1847-1931)
  6. 6. Complementary Skills: Part of Story <ul><li>Complementary skills part of the story. </li></ul><ul><li>Recognized in the literature of teamwork. </li></ul><ul><li>Clearly part of the equation. </li></ul><ul><li>Common bilateral alignments: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Tech-business. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Insider-outsider. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Big picture v. details. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Gregarious v. introverted. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Discipline 1 v. Discipline 2 . </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Think externally in terms of task . </li></ul>(c) 2008 David E. Goldberg
  7. 7. Qualitative Theory of Pairwork <ul><li>Sixfold decomposition: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Complementary skills, signature strengths, or personality traits. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Personal compatibility. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Coordination costs. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Dialectic creativity. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Motivational leveling. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Sociocultural negotiation in miniature. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Consider each in turn. </li></ul>(c) 2008 David E. Goldberg
  8. 8. Complementarity <ul><li>Complementary </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Strengths </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Personality traits </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Skills </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Complementarity is relative to task & is largely about results external to the pair. </li></ul><ul><li>Good pairs complement on multiple dimensions. </li></ul><ul><li>Complementary skills subject to minimal personal affinity for effective sustained work. </li></ul>(c) 2008 David E. Goldberg
  9. 9. Compatibility <ul><li>Do not need to be best friends. </li></ul><ul><li>Do need to </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Work well over sustained period. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Respect each other’s talents and contributions. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Think of compatibility as a constraint. </li></ul><ul><li>Maximize other qualities subject to minimal compatibility. </li></ul><ul><li>Complementarity is about task. Compatibility is about relationship, internal to the workings of the pair. </li></ul>(c) 2008 David E. Goldberg
  10. 10. Dialectic Creativity <ul><li>Pairwise interrogatory to arrive at better solution. </li></ul><ul><li>Organizational innovation literature (Poole et al.) recognizes dialectic as critical model. </li></ul><ul><li>Step from singleton to pair: mental debate  real debate. </li></ul><ul><li>“ Two heads better than one.” </li></ul><ul><li>Step qualitative improvement in solution quality. </li></ul><ul><li>Think of creativity of civilization following 5th century BC in Athens. </li></ul>(c) 2008 David E. Goldberg Socrates (470-399 BCE)
  11. 11. Coordination Costs <ul><li>Working by yourself no real coordination (issues of time management). </li></ul><ul><li>Working with others very real costs: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Communicate. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Negotiate. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Decide. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Decompose & distribute work. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Synchronize & reintegrate. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Pair: Grouping with real dialectic & minimal coordination. </li></ul>(c) 2008 David E. Goldberg
  12. 12. Motivational Leveling <ul><li>Mood swings and motivation of single person can be significant. </li></ul><ul><li>With two people, chances that one is up and can raise other are high. </li></ul><ul><li>Alternating pushing toward common goal. </li></ul><ul><li>One person depends on the other. </li></ul><ul><li>Doesn’t want to let the other down. </li></ul>(c) 2008 David E. Goldberg
  13. 13. Negotiation in Miniature <ul><li>When pairs come from different sociocultural backgrounds, each has knowledge about respective culture. </li></ul><ul><li>When pair negotiates conditions, brings tacit knowledge of culture. </li></ul><ul><li>Acceptable to each, then likely to be acceptable to others from two cultures. </li></ul><ul><li>Can then recruit & communicate credibly with new members. </li></ul><ul><li>Especially important in radically interdisciplinary ventures. </li></ul><ul><li>Example: Getting philosophers & engineers to meet at Workshop on Philosophy & Engineering. </li></ul>(c) 2008 David E. Goldberg
  14. 14. Three Little Models <ul><li>Used term “little models” to talk about facetwise or simplified quantiative models in engineering. </li></ul><ul><li>Fuller discussion in The Design of Innovation. </li></ul><ul><li>Three little models: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>LM1: Complementarity </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>LM2: Motivational leveling </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>LM3: Dialectic creativity </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Product model: Probabilistic patchquilt integration. </li></ul>(c) 2008 David E. Goldberg
  15. 15. LM1: Complementary Skills <ul><li>Assume person 1 good at skill one, successful with probability p, and successful at skill two with probability q = 1 – p  (p, q). </li></ul><ul><li>Person 2 is complement (q, p). </li></ul><ul><li>Singleton: </li></ul><ul><li>Pair: </li></ul><ul><li>Boost, B: </li></ul><ul><li>Minimum B = 2.25@p1=0.25, approaches 1/p1. </li></ul>(c) 2008 David E. Goldberg
  16. 16. LM2: Motivational Leveling <ul><li>Assume individual is up with probability p 2 = 1 – q 2 . </li></ul><ul><li>Assume that pair is up when one or other is up. </li></ul><ul><li>Pair is up when both are not down: (1- q 2 ) 2 . </li></ul><ul><li>Motivational leveling boost B 2 is ratio of pairwise success to singleton: </li></ul><ul><li>ML boost can be as great as 2. </li></ul>(c) 2008 David E. Goldberg
  17. 17. LM3: Dialectic Creativity <ul><li>Singleton: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Assume singleton has probability p 3 of being creative on given challenge. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Without further interaction, assume individual is stuck. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Pair: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Pairwise one shot success of creativity is 2 p 3 – p 3 2 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Pairs continue to innovate  approaches success probability of one. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Dialect boost approaches B 3 = 1/ p 3 . </li></ul>(c) 2008 David E. Goldberg
  18. 18. Product Model <ul><li>Assume independence of LM1, LM2, LM3. </li></ul><ul><li>Boost of overall model is product of individual boosts. </li></ul><ul><li>Exact model precision unimportant. </li></ul><ul><li>Asymptotic model of overall boost B approaches </li></ul><ul><li>Let p 1 = p 3 = 0.2  B = 50. </li></ul>(c) 2008 David E. Goldberg
  19. 19. Personal Reflections <ul><li>Georges Harik’s remark: pairs 20x more productive ( http://www-illigal.ge.uiuc.edu/ETSI ). </li></ul><ul><li>Education & interdisciplinary activities led by pairs: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Engineering and Technology Studies at Illinois (w/ Michael Loui): Michael inside community, DEG salesman and fundraiser. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>iFoundry curriculum reform (w/ Andreas Cangellaris): Andreas connections to larger campus and optimistic & DEG idea guy, but skeptical. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Workshop on Philosophy & Engineering (w/ Ibo van de Poel): DEG engineer & Ibo philosopher. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Olin-Illinois Partnership ( www.ifoundry.illinois.edu and www.apie2.org ), Sherra Kerns at Olin (little school & engin ed insider) & DEG (big school & marketer). </li></ul></ul>(c) 2008 David E. Goldberg
  20. 20. Implications of Theory <ul><li>Key point: More attention to facilitating great pairwork. </li></ul><ul><li>Facilitating pairwork: Create incentives, remove obstacles, and facilitate recruitment of complementary individuals. </li></ul><ul><li>Routine activities vs. creative activities: Routine leadership assumes unified command & emphasis on execution of known tasks. Should interdisciplinary structures & educational initiatives have leadership pairs more often? </li></ul><ul><li>Academy often requires negotiation: Built-in negotiation of pairwork good match for the academy. </li></ul><ul><li>Fine structure of commitees and teams. Teams require individual work, but fine structure may call for more pairwork. </li></ul>(c) 2008 David E. Goldberg
  21. 21. Bottom Line <ul><li>Considered origins, qualitative theory, and little models of pairwork. </li></ul><ul><li>Routine enhancement or operations suggests ordinary leadership with individual or teamwork as the case may be. </li></ul><ul><li>Creative, interdisciplinary, or startup activities may call for pairs of complementary folks. </li></ul><ul><li>Much work remains to be done: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>to investigate and extend theory through mining of existing data, </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Studying organizational settings </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Reviewing extant literature of teamwork, shared governance & pair programming. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Creative times demand we unlock these secrets. </li></ul>(c) 2008 David E. Goldberg
  22. 22. More Information <ul><li>iFoundry website: www.ifoundry.illinois.edu </li></ul><ul><li>iFoundry YouTube: www.youtube.com/illinoisfoundry </li></ul><ul><li>Slideshare: www.slideshare.net/ifoundry www.slideshare.net/deg511 </li></ul><ul><li>The Entrepreneurial Engineer ( here ). </li></ul><ul><li>Design of Innovation ( here ). </li></ul><ul><li>Twitter for Engineering Education Transformation and Innovation (TwEETI): @aPIE2 </li></ul><ul><li>DEG & iFoundry twitter: @DEG511 , @iFoundry </li></ul>(c) 2008 David E. Goldberg

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