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Social Loafing (excerpt)

In 1913 Maximilian Ringelmann, a French engineer, studied the performance of horses. He concluded that the power of two animals pulling a coach did not equal twice the power of a single horse. Surprised by this result, he extended his research to humans. He had several men pull a rope and measured the force applied by each individual. On average, if two people were pulling together, each invested just 93% of their individual strength, when three pulled together, it was 85%, and with eight people, just 49%.


Science calls this the social loafing effect. It occurs when individual performance is not directly visible; it blends in to the group effort. It occurs among rowers, but not in relay races, because here, individual contributions are evident. Social loafing is rational behaviour: why invest all of your energy when half will do – especially when this little shortcut goes unnoticed? Quite simply, social loafing is a form of cheating of which we are all guilty even if it takes place unconsciously, just as it did with Ringelmann’s horses.

When people work together, individual performances decrease. This isn’t surprising. What is noteworthy, however, is that our input doesn’t grind to a complete halt. So what stops us from putting our feet up completely and letting the others do all the hard work? The consequences. Zero-performance would be noticed, and it brings with it weighty punishments, such as exclusion from the group or vilification. Evolution has led us to develop many fine-tuned senses, including how much idleness we can get away with and how to recognise it in others.

Social loafing does not occur solely in physical performance. We slack off mentally, too. For example, in meetings, the larger the team the weaker our individual participation. However, once a certain number of participants is involved, our performance plateaus. Whether the group consists of 20 or 100 people is not important – maximum inertia has been achieved.”


One question remains: who came up with the much-vaunted idea that teams achieve more than individual workers? Maybe the Japanese. Thirty years ago, they flooded global markets with their products. Business economists looked more closely at the industrial miracle and saw that Japanese factories were organised into teams. This model was copied – with mixed success. What worked very well in Japan could not be replicated with the Americans and Europeans – perhaps because social loafing rarely happens there. In the West, teams function better if and only if they are small and consist of diverse, specialised people. This makes sense because within such groups, individual performances can be traced back to each specialist.

Can technology solve this?

While we’re building qiscus, we noticed this phenomena as well. We dismissed it quickly as the typical balancing act of team dynamics. However, we sought to reduce the negative aspects of team dynamics such as back-biting and so on by making qiscus extremely transparent.


What we did was to make qiscus a messaging tool purely for groups. There are no private chats between individuals. If there’s something worth to be spoken, speak it out to the whole group. 

This is an extremely strange concept because the strongest oppositions would say what if there’s something really important that I’ve to say to just one person?

“Go get another room then." 

Hard? We don’t think so. It takes just a little bit of getting used to; that’s all.

The remarkable thing that happens when teams starts to use qiscus is you’ll see significant improvements in productivity. A huge reason is because of the increase in transparency.

For example, when one person has a question he just pop it up to the group and anyone who’s better skilled or is available to answer will give the necessary resources. Another example is that because everyone can see how each individual contributes to the sum of the whole, it helps to motivate the team to contribute in their own unique ways.

In many ways, the accidental effect that qiscus addressed is social loafing. We will share more findings with regards to this soon..

Part of this article was quoted from The Art of Thinking Clearly: Better Thinking, Better Decisions by Rolf Dobelli


qiscus - group messaging tool for teams working remotely.

Distributed workforce have greater leverages in getting a larger talent pool while still keeping operation costs low. However, communication gets more inefficient the further a co-worker is from his colleagues.

qiscus solves this problem by creating a room-based discussion system to allow work discussion flow naturally. This allows your teams productivity to multiply yet remain least disruptive to your work processes.   


qiscus is designed for teams, platform agnostic and it’s as easy to as chat but as powerful as a project collaboration tool.

Supercharged your teams communication by giving qiscus a try



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