The Smartest Teams … 3 Traits

Team BuildingErin Brodwin who contributes to the Business Insider wondered what would happen if you took the best and brightest thinkers and put them in a room together. She wondered if they would be able to solve poverty, design a colony a colony on Mars or even solve the California drought problems.

Her findings were quite interesting. It seems that “groups full of intelligent people do not make the most intelligent teams.” A group of scientists from MIT, Carnegie Mellon, and Union College, conducted some research into team behaviors. Their study included approximately 700 volunteers that were randomly divided into smaller groups of 2-5 people. Then, each team was given a set of tasks that required them to work together. The teams were responsible to analyze, brainstorm, organize, and plan everything needed to reach a result for each of their task assignments.

The researchers were surprised that the most efficient and effective groups were not comprised simply of the smartest people. But, the best teams had the following three things in common:

1. They didn’t have a clear leader. Instead of having one or two people speak most often or lead team discussions, members of the smartest teams contributed fairly evenly to group chatter.

2. Their members were better, individually, at interpreting how others were feeling. This result was determined by participants’ results on a test where they were asked to identify complex emotions (like shame or curiosity, not simply happiness or sadness) using pictures showing only the eye-region of people’s faces.

3. They had more women. Although the teams did not have equal numbers of women, the more women a team had, the better they did. This researchers explained and concluded that, at least in part, that women performed “slightly but significantly” better on the emotion-reading test.

Therefore, what made a team “smart,” was not simply the intelligence of each individual member, but a sort of “collective intelligence,” or “c-factor,” as the scientist label it in their studies, determined by their ability to work together and continuously tap into each other’s thoughts, needs, and emotions.

These results held steady even in teams who weren’t physically together (as they were in the first study) but instead worked exclusively online. Even online, women performed better than men at gauging the emotions of others. This ability to feel others’ feelings, the research suggests, is independent of how physically close we are to the person in question, and goes deeper than the occasional glance at a co-workers’ facial expression.

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James E. McClain is the author of Successful Career Development: A Game Plan, the book upon which some of our training programs are based. He has over 30 years' experience as a corporate HR executive, small business owner with ongoing experience in career development and as a college instructor. His educational background includes a B.S. and Masters degrees Education and Certification in Financial Planning. Our promise is that "you can pay more for training but you can not buy better training." The mission is to deliver the most effective and cost effective training and development programs.

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Posted in Business Process Improvement, Leadership, Team Building

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