How to build an effective team - include women
Written by Sue Gee   
Sunday, 28 August 2011

Researchers looking into the concept of "collective intelligence" have discovered that factors for working effectively in a group are highly correlated to being a woman.


Some research published in Science is of interest to developers facing the prospect of managing or working in teams.


The research by Professors Thomas Malone (MIT) and Anita Woolley (Carnegie Mellon) set out to to discover whether "collective intelligence" can be used to predict group performance over a wide range of tasks in the same way as "general intelligence" applies to individual performance.

The result of a first study, involving 40 3-person groups supported the hypothesis that  a general collective intelligence factor c exists in groups and this was confirmed  in a further study in which people were assigned, again randomly, to 152 groups of 2 to 5 members.



The finding of the research as summarized in June 2011's Harvard Business Review is that:

There’s little correlation between a group’s collective intelligence and the IQs of its individual members. But if a group includes more women, its collective intelligence rises.

Thomas Malone confessed that prior to the studies he was afraid that collective intelligence would be just the average of the IQs of its members so this came as both surprising and intriguing. Also surprising were that factors such as group satisfaction, group cohesion and group motivation were not correlated with collective intelligence.

While the simplistic explanation is that collective intelligence is correlated with more females in a group this is not the whole story. The  factor that effected group performance was the "social sensitivity" of group members - how much they paid attention to each other - and this in turn correlates with gender, women are more socially sensitive than men. Groups in which there was turn-taking and where criticism was constructive did better than groups in which smart individuals dominated. In addition, Malone and Wooley's on-going research suggests that:

teams need a moderate level of cognitive diversity for effectiveness. Extremely homogeneous or extremely diverse groups aren’t as intelligent. 

So when you are recruiting for your next team don't worry about getting all the best brains together, consider the soft skills of listening and sharing ideas instead.


More information

Harvard Business Review

Singularity Hub article



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Last Updated ( Sunday, 28 August 2011 )