A group’s “general collective intelligence factor” is related to social and communication skills, not to the average or maximum individual intelligence of group members, found Carnegie Mellon’s Anita Williams Woolley, Christopher F. Chabris of Union College, with MIT colleagues Alex (“Sandy”) Pentland, Nada Hashmi, and Thomas W. Malone.
Instead, group intelligence was most closely associated with:
- Group member social sensitivity and empathy,
- Equal conversational turn-taking,
- Proportion of females in the group.
More than 695 volunteers completed an individual I.Q. test, then collaborated in teams to complete workplace tasks including:
- Logical analysis,
- Moral-ethical reasoning.
Each participant also completed a measure of empathy and social reasoning based on identifying emotional states portrayed in images of people’s eyes.
This instrument, Reading the Mind in the Eyes , was developed by University of Cambridge’s Simon Baron-Cohen, Sally Wheelright, JacquelineHill, Yogini Raste, and Ian Plumb.
This ability to infer other team members’ emotional states correlated with team effectiveness in solving workplace tasks, but not with extraversion and reported motivation.
Teams that performed best in online and face-to-face situations, also demonstrated stronger social and communication skills:
- Accurate emotion-reading, empathy, and interpersonal sensitivity,
- Communication volume,
- Equal participation.
High-performing teams excelled in inferring others’ feelings even if conveyed without visual, auditory, or non-verbal cues while interacting online in a study by Wooley’s team collaborating with MIT’s David Engel and Lisa X. Jing.
These studies demonstrate that teams may increase task performance when members have well-developed “Emotional Intelligence,” social insight, and communication skills rather than the highest measured IQ.
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