Monday, October 25, 2010

When the whole is greater than the sum of its parts: The intrinsic benefits of Group Think

New Study by Carnegie Mellon, MIT and Union College documents how collective intelligence of groups surpasses the cognitive abilities of the individual group members and that the tendency to cooperate effectively is linked to the number of women in a group.

The authors of the study confirmed the hypothesis that groups, like individuals, have a consistent ability to perform across different types of cognitive tasks and that the effectiveness of a group can, in fact, be predicted in many situations. Because the effectiveness of a group is derived by how well its members work together, it was also proven that in groups where one person dominated, the group was less collectively intelligent than groups where the conversational turns were more evenly distributed. Moreover, it was noted that groups containing more women demonstrated greater social sensitivity (social sensitivity is how well group members perceive each other's emotions) and greater collective intelligence compared to teams containing fewer women.

By extrapolation, the study postulates that it’s possible to improve the intelligence of a group by changing its members, by teaching them better ways of interacting or by giving them better electronic collaboration tools. The bottom line is that it is not the individual intelligence that will make the group succeed, but how the collective intelligence is harnessed together with the right mix of social sensitivities.

Questions to ponder:
  • Based on the findings of this latest research, how do you encourage group thinking in your business?
  • Or do you encourage it at all?
  • Do all of your teams look alike or are their demographics such that you too can predict the effectiveness of the group?
  • How do you help your groups to sharpen their thinking and therefore to improve their effectiveness?
  • Finally, do you have tools in place to measure the effectiveness of your teams?
We will be discussing these questions and more on our Facebook page.

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