Interesting video (and transcripts) of Thomas Malone (MIT Center for Collective Intelligence) at Edge (highlights are mine):
If it’s not just putting a bunch of smart people in a group that makes the group smart, what is it? We looked at bunch of factors you might have thought would affect it: things like the psychological safety of the group, the personality of the group members, et cetera. Most of the things we thought might have affected it turned out not to have any significant effect. But we did find three factors that were significantly correlated with the collective intelligence of the group.
The first was the average social perceptiveness of the group members. We measured social perceptiveness in this case using a test developed essentially to measure autism. It’s called the “Reading the Mind and the Eyes Test”. It works by letting people look at pictures of other people’s eyes and try to guess what emotions those people are feeling. People who are good at that work well in groups. When you have a group with a bunch of people like that, the group as a whole is more intelligent.
The second factor we found was the evenness of conversational turn taking. In other words, groups where one person dominated the conversation were, on average, less intelligent than groups where the speaking was more evenly distributed among the different group members.
Finally, and most surprisingly to us, we found that the collective intelligence of the group was significantly correlated with the percentage of women in the group. More women were correlated with a more intelligent group. Interestingly, this last result is not just a diversity result. It’s not just saying that you need groups with some men and some women. It looks like that it’s a more or less linear trend. That is, more women are better all the way up to all women. It is also important to realize that this gender effect is largely statistically mediated by the social perceptiveness effect. In other words, it was known before we did our work that women on average scored higher on this measure of social perceptiveness than men.
This is the interpretation I personally prefer: it may be that what’s needed to have an intelligent group is just to have a bunch of people in the group who are high on this social perceptiveness measure, whether those people are men or women. In any case, we think it’s an interesting finding, one that we hope to understand better and one that already has some very intriguing implications for how we create groups in many cases in the real world.
You can watch the video here.