3 Reasons Why Your One-Man Army Fails (And What to Do About It)

3 Reasons Why Your One-Man Army Fails (And What to Do About It)

By Erik Willet

We’ve all heard the problem “How long does it take X people to paint a fence?” in our math class.  Different aspects must be taken into account in order to solve the problem, but the single most important factor is time.  Time is a fixed asset, yet time is necessary for everything from reading and ideation to set up; from experimentation, data formatting and data analysis to conclusions, writing, and reporting, each competing for their share of time and attention.  You think you can do it all, but the one-man army is not effective.  Here are three reasons why your one-man army fails.

1. The one-man army lacks power, speed, and efficiency.

You may think you are avoiding the “too many cooks in the kitchen” situation.  Work is inefficient with more people around.  However, this is an extreme exaggeration.  A team can collectively accomplish all tasks in the shortest amount of time.  By working together, they can individually ensure each task is done well. However, a single person must perform all these tasks one after the other.  Failure to do any of these tasks creates obtrusive roadblocks.  It’s an unnecessarily slower process.

 2. The one-man army has fewer specializing skills.  

You think with a one-man army, you have full control of the product quality.  You can’t trust others to carry their own weight to competently finish the project.  What you have overlooked is some individuals on the team may specialize in a task, enhancing the productivity of the entire group. When they are assigned to the correct tasks, the team excels and everyone will reap the benefits.  The one-man army is limited by his own experiences.  On average a person may be very good at one or two things but weak in many others.  Increased numbers means more skill sets.

3. The one-man army can’t compete for resources. 

Big groups out-prioritize the work of single researchers when competing for resources.  Larger groups have a larger need for resources, can benefit more people, and can accomplish more with the same amount of time.  A one-man army is only a fractal unit of large groups and teams and can only put out a fraction of their work.  This increased competition only hinders your work and hinders your progress.

Still not convinced?  Any advantages of the one-man army, if any, can be scooped up by collaboration in a new form: the Armada.  Smaller, previously established teams can branch off and accomplish whatever it is a single one-man army could achieve.  The fragmented collaborated becomes an Armada.  Failures by any singular member are buffered by the individual success of anyone.  Research may proceed in any direction.  The total time spent is the same as the one-man army, but they have exponentially increased opportunities for success and only need to succeed once to have progressed the research for the time-span.  An experiment from the one-man army takes as long as the collaboration to set up, but the individual only gets one chance at success.

Do you operate with a one-man army?  What are your thoughts on its advantages and disadvantages?  Comment below!

This article was co-authored by Ywonne Hu. 


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