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Do Smart People Make Smart Teams?

You won’t have to wait long for it to happen. At some point during a meeting someone will, in one way or another, suggest that the solution to this problem is to put a bunch of smart people together and let them figure it out. They want Magic. But do smart people make smart teams?

According to Thomas Malone, a professor of management and an expert in organizational structure and group intelligence at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, the average intelligence of the people in the group and the maximum intelligence of the people in the group does not predict group intelligence.

While your boss might want to get a lot of smart people in a group to solve problems, that doesn’t necessarily make a smart group or offer better outcomes.

One question that comes to mind is whether group intelligence is correlated with qualities we intuitively think would be crucial indicators – things like group cohesion, satisfaction, psychological safety, and motivation. These factors, however, only moderately correlated with group success. It’s not that these factors don’t equal a smart group but rather that they have only some effect on a group’s ability to solve problems.

Can you engineer groups that can problem-solve effectively?

Yes. First, seed them with caring people. Malone found that group intelligence is correlated with the average social sensitivity (measured by openness and receptiveness to others) of a group’s constituents. In other words, the emotional intelligence of group correlates with the overall intelligence of the group. Since women, generally, are more caring people, this means that groups with more women tend to be smarter than groups with more men. As Malone put it: “more females, more intelligence.”

Sources here and here.

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