Gartner Fellow Tom Austin blogged about an article in Science on defining and testing “collective intelligence”, the ability of a group to accomplish cognitive tasks. You’ll need a subscription to Science to read the article, or pay $15 to purchase the article, but lead author Anita Williams Woolley discusses the research in Science’s podcast available for free.
In the podcast, Woolley said that the a group’s collective intelligence was higher when members took turns speaking. Groups with a few members who dominated conversations had a lower collective intelligence. They found very little, if any correlation between individual intelligence of members of the group and the collective intelligence of the group. They also found no correlation between high extrovert scores of members and collective intelligence. But there was a strong correlation between groups of individuals with high social sensitivity and collective intelligence.
Incidentally, the higher proportion of women in a group the higher the collective intelligence. Woolley explained this because women tend to have higher social sensitivity than men and she did not seem to think there was any other factor influencing this gender difference.
As we move toward technology that gives groups unprecedented ability to collaborate, how can we use this research to more effectively manage our efforts?
Can we use tools that either mandate turn taking, or allow everyone in the group to participate as she or he sees fit to lessen the impact of low social sensitivity?