Individuals who work together as a team display better problem-solving skills than those who face their fatigue alone, new research shows.
"Teams appear to be more highly motivated to perform well, and team members can compare solutions to reach the best decision when they are fatigued. This appears to allow teams to avoid the inflexible thinking experienced by fatigued individuals," said Daniel Frings, a senior lecturer in social psychology at London South Bank University, where the research was conducted.
The study examined the problem-solving skills of 171 army officer cadets during a weekend training exercise. The results showed that individual soldiers who were fatigued performed significantly worse on the tests than alert soldiers. However, teams of cadets performed just as well when they were tired as when they were alert.
"Flexible thinking during problem-solving is vital in many fields," Frings said.
In situations where fatigue could be a factor, decisions should be made by teams rather than individuals when possible, the study concluded. If that isn’t practical, then organizations should train their employees to identify the inflexible thinking that can result from fatigue and possibly delay crucial decisions.
The study was published online this week in the American Psychological Association’s Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied.