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.
Group intelligence was most closely associated with:
- Group member social sensitivity and empathy,
- Equal conversational turn-taking,
- Proportion of females in the group.
Nearly 700 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, Jacqueline Hill, Yogini Raste, and Ian Plumb.
The 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 accurately inferred others’ feelings even when emotional state was conveyed without visual, auditory, or non-verbal cues, reported Wooley’s team collaborating with MIT’s David Engel and Lisa X. Jing.
CONCLUSION: Teams increase task performance when members have well-developed “Emotional Intelligence,” social insight, and communication skills and when the proportion of women is high. These factors are more correlated with effective performance than when members have the highest average IQ.
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