Group Intelligence Correlates With Social Aptitude, Not IQ
October 19, 2012 Editor 0
Considering the complexity and global nature of business today, work is nearly always a team activity, and often those teams are embedded in ever-shifting networks. A new field of study, collective intelligence, is measuring the ability of teams to solve problems. This research is yielding powerful insights into improving the performance of networks, teams, and other collective groups. One breakthrough finding shows that collective intelligence is variable and measurable and — most surprisingly — correlates more with the social abilities of the team members than with the team’s aggregate individual IQ.
At the NeuroLeadership Summit being held in New York City this week, I am hosting a panel with Dr. Christopher Chabris of Union College. We will share findings from Dr. Chabris and his colleagues from CMU and MIT around team intelligence and show how our company, Juniper Networks, is drawing upon this research to reimagine work design, drive innovation, and deepen engagement with major customers. (You can view the talk live on Wednesday, October 17 at 9:00 a.m.) So far, our achievements are helping corporate leaders understand how to identify the conditions and then create the climate for teams to accomplish more thinking together than they could achieve working in isolation.
In large 21st century organizations, executives have recognized that networks and teams play a key role in organizational excellence and are a form of collective intelligence. It’s true that networks foster innovation through informal collaboration and the exchange of expertise and ideas. Networks also move information quickly and freely and determine where work really happens and how. Whether we like it or not, hierarchies are more and more relics of the past while networks determine where value is created.
Teams and networks also have vulnerabilities — such as increased costs of collaboration, invisible delays, conflicts with formal work processes, and the effects on individual workers with different learning and communications styles. Addressing these vulnerabilities means understanding more about how we strengthen our collective intelligence.
To understand what factors influenced the collective intelligence of the group, Dr. Chabris’ research group assembled nearly 700 volunteers, who were split into small teams and presented with a range of tasks that drew upon collective decision-making and collaboration. A motivation for this research was the realization that over time, group work, rather than individual work, is increasing.
The study’s results identified three factors that groups with high team intelligence possess:
- The ability of group members to read and respond to social cues;
- The proportion of women in the group (women tend to do better on social perception tests);
- Evenly distributed conversational turn-taking, rather than dominance by a few members.
At Juniper Networks, we’ve already taken insights from leading neuroscience research to radically rethink our approach to the discipline of performance management. More recently, we’ve taken this commitment to a new level by incorporating network intelligence research into how we serve and manage one of our most important customers.
Here’s what we did: Juniper mapped connections and communications in a customer cross boundary network and identified a group of professionals who are central connectors to the customer — those with the highest number of connections. In the mapping exercise, we uncovered a surprising and challenging fact — that 4 percent of our team accounted for 50 percent of our cross-functional connectivity associated with this customer.
We’re now mapping other critical customer networks, seeking to address imbalances that limit collective intelligence. We are especially intrigued by what Dr. Chabris and his colleagues found concerning “conversational turn-taking.” In partnership with our customer leaders, we are exploring means to expand access among the customer team to information and decision flows and delegate more responsibilities. We’re also encouraging new points of customer contact and training people to better manage the flow of information and customer relationship building. These steps are important as we increase the number of people joining into and developing customer conversations — making them valuable.
This is only one small frontier in the dynamic and profitable innovations we’re advancing to expand the company’s collective intelligence. There’s so much more to share in our discussion and how other firms can drive innovation from groundbreaking research into social and team intelligence. Check out the Summit’s website during the conference to learn more.
Note: You can view live streaming of the conference between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. US EST on October 15, 16, and 17. Streaming is free during the summit and available for purchase afterward. Viewers can also join the conversation on twitter with the hashtag #2012NLS.
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