What Makes Teams Smart

12 Mar 2011 Sandeep Mehta

An interesting paper in Science extends the concept of intelligence to teams and defines Collective Intelligence.  Based on study of 699 people working in small teams of 2-5 people, the study found that team intelligence is driven by three factors:

  1. Social sensitivity of team members increases team intelligence.  More sensitive the team members are about social cues such as facial expression, the better the team performs
  2. Teams where everyone participated in the discussion were more intelligent.  If few people dominated the discussion, the collective intelligence went down.  This is something R&D managers should keep in mind.  It is very easy for managers to dominate team discussions.
  3. Teams with women members were more intelligence than others.  This is likely because women tend to have higher social sensitivity than men.

Equally interesting is the list of factors that does not drive team intelligence. (via MIT Sloan Review and
What Makes Teams Smart):

Interestingly, the researchers found that collective intelligence wasn’t strongly correlated with the average intelligence of the individuals in the group — or with the intelligence of the smartest person in the group. They also found, as they wrote in Science, ”that many of the factors one might have expected to predict group performance — such as group cohesion, motivation, and satisfaction — did not.”

So what can you do about improving team performance?  Check out the article How to Keep Your Team Loose.  Or this one on where to focus on driving performance.

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