Intellectual swing

In his 1985 book about Olympic rowing, The Amateurs, David Halberstam writes:

When most oarsmen talked about their perfect moments in a boat, they referred not so much to winning a race but to the feel of the boat, all eight oars in the water together, the synchronization almost perfect. In moments like that, the boat seemed to lift right out of the water. Oarsmen called that the moment of swing.

Similarly, consider a small group of people in a meeting. A successful face-to-face group is more than just a collection of individuals; it is more than the sum of the individuals. Everyone

  • works harder,
  • thinks smarter, and
  • reaches better conclusions

than they would have on their own.

When a boat has swing, its motion seems almost effortless. Although there are eight oarsmen in the boat, it’s as if there’s only one person — with perfect timing and perfect strength — rowing.

A small group which works well has intellectual swing.

— Extracted from The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki

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