In following rabbit holes whilst researching the book I came across this interesting piece on what makes some teams smarter than others. This, as the authors (Professors from the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon, the M.I.T. Sloan School of Management, and Union College) point out, is an important question given how many decisions of significance are made by groups of people.
In studies that the team conducted back in 2010, 697 volunteers were grouped into teams of between two to five people, with each team being given a series of tasks representative of the kinds of problems that teams are commonly expected to address. The studies revealed that general intelligence applied to the groups (as it does to individuals) so teams that did well on one task often did well on others too.
But interestingly it wasn't the average individual intelligence of team members (as measured by I.Q tests), or levels of extroversion, or even motivation that made them smarter. It turns out that there were three distinguishing characteristics:
- Team members contributing more equally, no individuals dominating
- They were also good at reading the emotional states of other group members (scoring high on a test called 'Reading the Mind in the Eyes')
- And it was notable how teams with more women outperformed teams with more men ('Indeed, it appeared that it was not “diversity” (having equal numbers of men and women) that mattered for a team’s intelligence, but simply having more women. This last effect, however, was partly explained by the fact that women, on average, were better at “mindreading” than men').
A more recent study conducted by the academics considered the difference that working face to face or working remotely from each other online made to team collective intelligence. Here, the same teams consistently worked smarter than others regardless of whether they worked online or offline. Whatever the mode of interaction it was the volume of communication, equality of participation and good emotion-reading skills that made the difference.