Social Smarts

What is group intelligence?

The headline of a recent post on Harvard Business Review’s HBR Blog Network says it all: “Group Intelligence Correlates More With Social Aptitude Than IQ.” Describing a session he would be presenting with psychology and neurology professor Christopher Chabris at the 2012 NeuroLeadership Summit in New York City on Oct. 17, Steven Rice, executive vice president of human resources for Juniper Networks, writes:

In large 21st-century organizations, executives have recognized that networks and teams play a key role in organizational excellence and are a form of collective intelligence. It’s true that networks foster innovation through informal collaboration and the exchange of expertise and ideas. Networks also move information quickly and freely and determine where work really happens and how. Whether we like it or not, hierarchies are more and more relics of the past, while networks determine where value is created.

Teams and networks also have vulnerabilities – such as increased costs of collaboration, invisible delays, conflicts with formal work processes, and the effects on individual workers with different learning and communications styles. Addressing these vulnerabilities means understanding more about how we strengthen our collective intelligence.

To understand what factors influenced the collective intelligence of the group, Dr. Chabris’ research group assembled nearly 700 volunteers, who were split into small teams and presented with a range of tasks that drew upon collective decision-making and collaboration. A motivation for this research was the realization that over time, group work, rather than individual work, is increasing.

The study’s results identified three factors that groups with high team intelligence possess:

  • The ability of group members to read and respond to social cues;
  • The proportion of women in the group (women tend to do better on social perception tests);
  • Evenly distributed conversational turn-taking, rather than dominance by a few members.

For more information: convn.org/group-intel

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