Work long enough with a cherished veterinarian, practice manager, or team member, and you may work together flawlessly without uttering a word to each other. But throw a third person into the mix—and a fourth and a fifth and on and on—and your intuitive cooperation turns into trouble.
That's the news out of the University of Leicester, where four researchers conducted an experiment to test the success of two-person groups against larger groups. Participants received gains and losses in a financial game for pressing one of two buttons on a computer and didn't know, in the beginning, that their results were based on their neighbor's choice, not their own. Two-person groups yielded more gains than losses, whereas groups of three or more people never did.
“Married couples or pairs of business partners may be able to rely on intuitive cooperation, to an extent, but larger groups need explicit communication and planning," says leader researcher Andrew Colman. "Mechanisms need to be put in place to facilitate it. Intuitive cooperation is really a case of two’s company, but three’s a crowd.”
In a veterinary practice of two, intuitive cooperation works well. Build a bigger practice, however, and bring in that third wheel, and assumed understanding and communication break down.