Why Are Some Groups Smarter Than Others, and How Can You Improve Your Team’s Collective IQ?

In our last post, we talked about the debate over whether some groups are inherently smarter and more capable than others. Studies seem to confirm that they can be. Counterintuitively, though, research also shows that neither the average intelligence of a group (measured in IQ) nor the individual intelligences of members are responsible for this phenomenon.

So why are some groups smarter than others? And what can you take away from this research to become a more effective leader?

According to a study published in the journal Science, three primary characteristics cause differences in group intelligence levels. In groups with higher collective intelligence levels:

  • Group members contributed more equally to the group’s discussions, rather than listening to only one or two people.
  • Group members could “read” people’s emotional states more accurately based on facial expression.
  • Group members were more likely to be female.

To learn more about this phenomenon, the same researchers who published the study described above conducted a new experiment. In this experiment, they measured the collective intelligence of groups once again. However, this time, only half of the groups worked with their team members face-to-face. The other half collaborated online with no ability to see the other members of the group.

Even with this twist, some groups were still more effective than others. As in the first study, the most successful groups were those with members who participated equally, read emotions well and communicated clearly.
Some Lessons

Although it is difficult to guess how any given group of people will perform together until you see them in action, understanding the science behind group performance can still be beneficial. Keep these rules in mind:

  • As you select group members, choose people who have strong skills at reading people and responding empathetically.
  • Prevent consolidation of power. If you notice that one or two people dominate every conversation, encourage more equal participation to improve the group’s performance.
  • Ensure diversity on the team, including both men and women.
  • When putting your team together, focus not just on the individual IQs and skills of the members but also on the group’s IQ and skills. Create metrics to test and measure the group’s efficacy.

Do you need strategic assistance with your leadership skills to improve your company or division’s bottom line? If so, please call or email me today for a free consultation, or sign up for our newsletter below.

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