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3 Secrets for Smarter Teams: #1, Add More Women


It takes more than smart people to make smart teams.

It has been a good week to discover "best practices" for smart and successful teams, at least in the press. This weekend I read no fewer than six separate, yet related, pieces on this topic. Unsurprising, as each article and blog entry catalyzes others in our omni-connected world.
Here's the theme:
“Groups of smart people can make horrible decisions — or great ones. Psychologists have known for a century that individuals vary in their cognitive ability. But are some groups, like some people, reliably smarter than others?”
In a nutshell the answer is "yes." Groups with specific characteristics consistently behave "smarter" than others - “collective” or “group” intelligence and team productivity are distinguished by 3 shared attributes:
  1. Productive teams have members who contribute equally to discussions. No one should dominate, or monopolize, the group discussions. See, “Pulpit Bullies: Why Dominating Leaders Kill Teams” from the Harvard Business Review. 
  2. Productive teams have members who effectively read the complex emotions of others. Testing of this ability includes “Reading the Mind in the Eyes,” whereby one reads subject's emotions by simply looking at photographs of their eyes. You can take this test yourself, right here. Smart teams go beyond the ability to read facial expressions and achieve a more general skill, known as “Theory of Mind,” to keep track of what other people feel, know and believe.
  3. Finally, “teams with more women outperformed teams with more men.”According to the MIT study, the effectiveness of having more women on a team may derive from “the fact that women, on average, were better at “mind-reading” than men.”
The "Avengers" would perform better with more women on their team
For productivity, fill your team with humble, empathetic professional women.
Further, the studies illustrate that "social sensitivity" is a skill not a personality trait. And, significant in our world of growing physical disconnection, the research indicates that these empathy skills are valuable to group success both on- and offline. 
The source of these stories stems from clinical research published in the journals “Science” and PLOS One based upon research conducted at The Center for Collective Intelligence at MIT.
One well-written article on this subject is from the researchers themselves (Anita Wooley, Thomas W. Malone and Christopher Chabris) as it appears in The New York Times “Why Some Teams Are Smarter Than Others.”
On LinkedIn, you can read more on this topic from Cass Sunstein and Reid Hastie; they use sports metaphors (think Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson) and excerpts from Sunstein’s new book to produce the derivative post, “Forget Myers-Briggs: To Build a Great Team, Focus on 'Factor C’."
And, you can read about How to Look Smarter.
© David J. Katz, New York City.

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