Many years ago, after a particularly frustrating day interacting with production (when we still manufactured in Canada), I complained to my supervisor -- the Gradin portion of this theory -- that "If you took two people and added their IQs together..." At that point, I paused momentarily, and he immediately interjected, "You would get a negative number."
The engineer in me wondered if this could be possible. This led me to a plausible explanation. The MBA in me wanted this expressed as a theory. Boredom while waiting for a plane's departure led me to write this down.
The Gradin-Kagan effect (or worker empowerment: phooey)
Any element of society is subject to the law of entropy. Unless forced to assume some entity by an external force, it will degenerate into a form that approaches chaos. In the absence of clear, unambiguous, nonconflicting, and attainable goals, the Gradin-Kagan Effect will manifest itself as follows:
Hypothesis No. 1 (Kagan's Law or the inverse synergy effect): When two or more people work together, the effective IQ of the group is almost always less than the simple sum of their individual IQs. IQ is not a scalar quantity. It has at least one other dimension that prevents the simple addition of IQs when several people work together.
Hypothesis No. 2 (Gradin's Law): When two or more people work together, the effective IQ will always give a negative number. In a normal distribution of the vector IQs of a group, it would be expected that the second dimensions of the IQs would cancel each other out, giving an effective IQ of zero. However, in what must be a previously unobserved effect of Murphy's Law, the effective IQ is always less than zero.
Hypothesis No. 3: Any person working in a group will have his/her IQ reduced when making any simple decision. Through some perverse feedback effect, as yet unexplained, the negative number derived through Gradin's Law is added to each individual IQ, thereby reducing that IQ. For example, an individual with sufficient IQ to distinguish which end of a burning cigarette to put in his mouth, in a workgroup setting, would happily lick the hot end and still be surprised at the resulting burn.
According to the Dilbert Principle, all management is incompetent. As a result, there may never be a situation where the Gradin-Kagan Effect is ever negated by suitable goals.
By the way, the burning cigarette part is true.
Have you ever felt frustrated enough with the stupidity of other people that you would be willing to share your experiences with the rest of us?
I've been lucky enough to work over the years with some very smart, very capable people who were also fun to work with. In many cases, our skills and interests complemented each other and together we could do far more than either one of us alone. Having a good partner to work with is often more productive than trying to do it all yourself, especially since you can catch each other's errors earlier and suggest alternative approaches before wasting time going down a path that turns out to be wrong.
However, it's hard to scale beyond two. Heck, it's hard even to schedule a meeting with more than two. With three or more, you have a committee and "the patient dies on the operating table while the doctors argue" as one of my teachers used to say.
I close with a wonderful quote from Charles Kettering, who said this upon hearing how wonderful it was that Charles Lindbergh had flown across the Atlantic all alone:
"It would have been still more wonderful if he had done it with a committee."
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.