Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Collective Intelligence of Groups

Caveat: this is about ad hoc groups, not well honed teams nor aggregations of individual contributors happening to work in adjacent cubicles.

Bee hivePeople who are good at solving one type of brainteaser tend to excel at a variety of mental calisthenics—support, many psychologists say, for the concept of general intelligence. A study published online this week in Science extends this concept to groups of people, arguing that groups have a "collective intelligence" that predicts their performance on a range of collaborative tasks.

The researchers, led by Anita Woolley, an organizational psychologist at Carnegie Mellon University, reached this conclusion after studying 699 people working in small groups. They also investigated why some groups appear to be smarter than others. Surprisingly, the average intelligence of the individuals in the group was not the best predictor of a group's performance. The degree to which group members were attuned to social cues and their willingness to take turns speaking were more important, as was the proportion of women in the group.