Most of us can agree from experience that groups good at one task also tend to be good at other tasks, raising the question of whether there is group intelligence at work. Carnegie Mellon has been researching this question and finding that, in fact, some groups are smarter than others, along with interesting data that group intelligence is not correlated with the average IQ of the individuals in the group.
While at first glance this seems contradictory, if you think of your own experience in groups, you can no doubt recall times when you were in a group of extremely smart people who couldn’t accomplish a simple task (usually because they were all tripping over their own brilliance). Perhaps you can as well recall other groups of people, not so individually brilliant, but who working together accomplished great things.
The research into what is called “collective intelligence” shows conclusively that groups do form a kind of intelligence operating at a level different than the average IQ of the group. The two factors that emerge at the group level are “diversity” and “connectivity.” By “diversity,” the research means more precisely “cognitive diversity”; i.e., the presence of many different points of view and thus the resources to bring a more complete solution to the problem at hand. By “connectivity,” the research means more precisely “social sensitivity,” the presence in the group of respecting everyone’s view and helping each person articulate their idea.
From my own experience, especially in the creativity literature, the presence of diversity and the need to respect all ideas has long been accepted. But in this research by Carnegie Mellon, these ideas are being extended into general effectiveness of groups. I find this of great value for organizations, as we can seek to help groups “get their groove on” and become smarter than their average IQ, thus lifting all boats (to mix metaphors). To read more about this research, go to Carnegie Mellon’s site: http://tepper.cmu.edu/news-multimedia/news/news-detail/index.aspx?nid=445.
In the meantime, in your next group meeting, seek to welcome diversity of thought and seek to connect each person into the conversation – and you’ll raise the group’s IQ!
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