by Courtney Martin
A new study out in the journal, Psychological Science, stopped me in my tracks this week. It's called "The Path to Glory Is Paved With Hierarchy" and it reports that "built-in hierarchy helps a team work effectively on collaborative tasks." The lead authors on the study--academics all--found that groups of college students with increased inequality were more effective at completing designated tasks, while those with flattened hierarchies where no one voice was privileged, no one leader appointed, were less quick to obliterate their do lists--as defined by the study's architects.
This is probably an accurate interpretation of this study, whether I like it or not. But you know what it's not an accurate interpretation of? Fulfilled human beings. Being effective, particularly when working with groups, is not the same as doing meaningful, sustainable work. Community organizing, for example, is probably one of the most notoriously ineffective methodologies for "getting things done," but it's also proven to catalyze revolutions and change lives. Parenting? Not so effective. It happens over years and years of twists and turns, negotiations and tears, and what happens in the end is not so much "effective" as miraculous. Same goes for teaching. And nursing. And ministering.
Human beings are not to do lists, so of course, when there is equality among them, things can be messier, slower, less controllable. But they're also more beautiful. Don't you think?
Note: Courtney is the author of our Healing Democracy Action Circles guide. We hope you'll sign up to lead a circle! Learn more here, and be sure to follow along with us here on the blog, on our Facebook page, and on Twitter (@couragerenewal)!