The teams with the smartest members aren't necessarily the smartest teams.
Researchers who teamed up with Alex Pentland
and Nada Hashmi
of MIT grouped 697 volunteers into teams with two to five members and studied
how they performed several short tasks that required such common skills
as logical analysis, brainstorming, planning, coordination and moral
reasoning. Volunteers took individual IQ tests, but teams with the
highest average IQs weren't necessarily the most successful. Nor were
the teams with most extroverts nor the most highly motivated members.
The most successful teams with the best collective intelligence
it turned out, had three characteristics. Their members contributed
equally to group discussions rather than having a few members who
dominated. Teams with more women outperformed teams with more men. And
the most successful teams had members who scored highest on a test
called Reading the Mind in the Eyes
That test is designed to measure how well people can read emotional
states by looking at facial images that only show the eyes. The study is
described in a New York Times story
by researchers Anita Woolley
, Thomas W. Malone
, and Christopher F. Chabris
An Atlantic story by Derek Thompson
stresses the importance empathy and social sensitivity. Generally, the
story says, women outperform men on the Eyes test, which helps explain
why teams with more women tend to have higher collective intelligence.
Elements of that trait include an ability to read complex emotions and
skill at interpreting nonverbal clues.
Interestingly, another study showed that good collective
intelligence was just as important for teams working virtually as it is
for teams working face to face. A study by Woolley, Malone, Chabris, David Engel
and Lisa X. Jing in PLoS One
examined teams that worked together face to face and teams that worked
virtually. Emotion reading skill was just as important in the success
of online teams
The other characteristics that helped in person teams-frequent good
quality conversation and equal participation-also were crucial online.
and Keith McCandless
wrote the book The Surprising Power of Liberating Structures
and created the Liberating Structures website
which describes simple methods to improve the way we meet, interact
and collaborate. Lipmanowicz says the use of Liberating Structures (LS)
can help people learn the communication, participation and emotion
reading skills that create good teamwork. While traditional paths to
learning these skills is slow, expensive and unreliable, Lipmanowicz
says, people who experience using LS can learn them quickly.