"...the number of women in a group had significant predictive power. “We didn’t design this study to focus on the gender effect,” Malone said. “That was a surprise to us.” One implication is that the level of collective intelligence should keep rising along with the proportion of women in a group. To be sure, as Malone said, that gender effect is a generalization. “Of course some males have more social skill or social sensitivity than females,” Malone acknowledged. “What our results indicate is that people with social skills are good for a group — whether they are male or female.”There has been controversy about whether diverse groups are more effective than homogenous groups - diverse groups tend to have more conflict, but this study seems to put that issue to rest.
"“We did not know if groups would show a general cognitive ability across tasks,” said Thomas W. Malone, the Patrick J. McGovern Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, one of the authors of the paper. “But we found that there is a general effectiveness, a group collective intelligence, which predicts a group’s performance in a lot of situations.”Lead ON!
That effectiveness, the researchers believe, stems from how well the group works together. Groups whose members had higher levels of “social sensitivity” — the willingness of the group to let all its members take turns and apply their skills to a given challenge — were more collectively intelligent. “Social sensitivity has to do with how well group members perceive each other’s emotions,” said Malone. “In groups where one person dominated, the group was less intelligent than in groups where the conversational turns were more evenly distributed.” Teams containing more women demonstrated greater social sensitivity and in turn collective intelligence, compared to teams containing fewer women.
When ‘groupthink’ is good
To arrive at their conclusions, the researchers conducted two studies in which 699 people were placed in groups of two to five and worked on tasks that ranged from visual puzzles to negotiations, brainstorming, games and complex rule-based design assignments. The researchers concluded that a group’s collective intelligence accounted for about 30 to 40 percent of the variation in performance.
Moreover, the researchers found that the performances of groups were not primarily due to the individual abilities of the group members."
Susan Colantuono is CEO of Leading Women and author of No Ceiling, No Walls. Follow her on Twitter.