“Beyond Collective Intelligence” is Linked to a Certain Number of Women on a Team

Network Of People
The voice of this blog is different because it is Sheila Armitage, collaborator in Leaders For Good. She is joining me in the quest to humanize organizations. Sheila brings a different background to me – one of legal, corporate learning, leadership, and change strategy.  She is a voice for well being being as a driver of business performance. 

In recent days there has been a lot of Press coverage of women’s absence on boards of directors and in senior ranks at Apple Computers. Also, Yahoo CEO, Marissa Mayer’s “disposal” of her COO Henrique Castro, raised a furore. A much larger issue than diversity and women in power is one of who we are becoming – nasty business people perhaps. Who do we want to be? How can women and men build on natural strengths for better business, community and to solve larger social problems? A fascinating study sheds light on this potential synergy.MIT, Carnegie Mellon & Union Universities jointly researched the predictability of synergy — a bump greater than the combined intelligence of individuals on a team — to delve into the team’s ability to consistently solve a wide range of problems. The business application of this is valuable in that configuring teams to achieve consistent problem solving has a major competitive advantage.What they found – unexpectedly – was that problem solving ability was not driven by individual intelligence: there was only a 40% correlation there. They found that “social sensitivity,” a characteristic that is a greater tendency in women, strengthened a team’s ability to cooperate well and solve business problems.

“In two studies with 699 people, working in groups of two to five, we find converging evidence of a general collective intelligence factor that explains a group’s performance on a wide variety of tasks. This “c factor” is not strongly correlated with the average or maximum individual intelligence of group members but is correlated with the average social sensitivity of group members, the equality in distribution of conversational turn-taking, and the proportion of females in the group.”  (For the 2010 research results:http://web.mit.edu/press/2010/collective-intel.html)

It calls into question our definition of intelligence. It is a dynamic that goes beyond I.Q., building a team comprising the smartest talent or “good team behaviors.” The research implies that team performance will consistently rise with social sensitivity added to the group skill mix.

What does this mean for business?

·      Tap into neurally-wired characteristics of humans – the survival skill of being able to read the people around you;

·      Consciously choose teams for an effective mix of social sensitivity skills;

·      Bring more women and men who exhibit these skills to the table in order to boost performance overall;

·      Include “social sensitivity” as a “leadership competency” and reward such behaviors to integrate them into your team’s culture.