Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Collective Intelligence

Groups are generally much more efficient at solving problems than individuals.  Moreover, the performance of a group does not correlate well with the average I.Q. of the group or even with the I.Q.’s of the smartest members. BUT, studies from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Carnegie Mellon have found that "groups have a high collective intelligence when members of a group are good at reading each others’ emotions — when they take turns speaking, when the inputs from each member are managed fluidly, when they detect each others’ inclinations and strengths"

As most of us know from experience, the ideal conditions for high collective intelligence to exist and produce the wonderful results possible rarely are present. Creating and developing a well-functioning group is very difficult even when there's high motivation and trust to start.

Remember the social psychological model of group development? Form, storm, norm and conform? Many groups never get beyond the storming phase. I have been in few high-functioning groups I'm sad to say: even groups with social psychologists who understand the process well, but can't translate theory into practice. I'm all for group problem-solving for many reasons, but I prefer to do it on my own. It takes less time, generates less conflict, and produces good results much of the time.

I'd welcome an offer for a guest blogger to write a post about an experience with a well-functioning problem-solving group, or for any of the intelligent women — or men — to e-mail me with a story that I could then post about collective intelligence at work!

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