4 Replies Latest reply on Aug 19, 2011 12:51 PM by Samina Azad

    Does Gender Play a Role in Collective Team Intelligence?

    Samina Azad

      Studies show that teams that have more women are more intelligent! Can you believe it? HBR published this new finding in the June 2011 issue. The title of the article is “What Makes a Team Smarter? More Women”

      Professors Woolley (of Carnegie Mellon) and Malone (of MIT) along with others conducted a research where they gave subjects aged 18 to 60 individual IQ tests and then randomly assigned them to groups. Then they tested the collective IQ of each group through tasks like brainstorming, decision making and visual puzzles in order to solve one complex problem. It turned out that the collective intelligence was not an average of all the individual IQs in a group but the groups that had more women earned much higher scores.


      How do they explain the results? This happened because women usually score higher than men in tests of social sensitivity. The professors’ preliminary conclusion is that it is important to have team members who are high in social sensitivity to make a team more intelligent. In all great groups, members listen to each other, can take criticism constructively and have open minds. It is therefore possible to design a successful team with high collective IQ. It would be interesting to know if the collective IQ is always directly proportional to team performance and productivity.


      Cheers to HBR for publishing this article!

        • Re: Does Gender Play a Role in Collective Team Intelligence?
          Denise Martin

          I have some questions regarding this study.  How does one define collective team IQ?  and what was the driving force behind the study?  Does social sensitivity equal high IQ and does it mean that the organizational goal was successfully accomplished?  It only takes one person to substantially change the average of a small group but it takes intelligent leadership to ignore the social sensitivities that block timely and effective problem solving.

            • Re: Does Gender Play a Role in Collective Team Intelligence?
              Samina Azad

              Thank you for your comments Denise! The Collective Team IQ is defined by the way a team solves a problem or makes a critical decision vs. the individual team members. This is why the industry folks spend so many hours “brainstorming”, right? A team is supposed to be able to make better decisions than individuals. In this study, the teams were given some tough problems to solve and the total team IQ was defined by the collective problem solving skills and decision making process. The preliminary conclusion from the study is that social sensitivity equals IQ, specifically in the case of a team and organizational goals can be accomplished by a high IQ team. The study also shows that collective IQ is not an average of individual IQs and it makes sense because one high IQ team member cannot make a difference if the team is not able to take that input to make a final decision. I am not sure what the driving force was behind the study but it is interesting to know that women make smarter teams. The professors caution that the finding is preliminary and more work needs to be done. Also, will the same be applicable to a much larger group like a few hundred people? They don’t know yet.   

                • Re: Does Gender Play a Role in Collective Team Intelligence?
                  Robert Pinschmidt

                  Another thing some industry folks spend a lot of time on is figuring out and trying to improve team dynamics. Myers-Briggs assessments (see for instance http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myers-Briggs_Type_Indicator), and a number of alternative systems I am less familiar with, try to identify individual psychological strengths and preferences or comfort zones, and then stress the importance of getting a balanced team with a diversity of these strengths and comfort zones.

                  The dicotomies:

                  ESTJ: extraversion (E), sensing (S), thinking (T), judgment (J)


                  INFP: introversion (I), intuition (N), feeling (F), perception (P)


                  There are week long courses on this which I am not going to try to condense for a short note. Suffice it to say, there is nothing worse than a team of very smart people dominated by intuition (N), thinking (T), perception (P) types trying to get to a final conclusion, unless it is a team dominated by sensing (S), thinking (T), judgment (J) people trying to find creative solutions.  A mix of skills goes a long way in overcoming these types of problems.


                  In tech industries there are often real shortages of people in the feeling (F) (or consensus building and empathic) category (as opposed to 'thinking (T)'). In my old company it was under 10%! You should see a problem for some teams right there. It turns out (http://www.mrob.com/pub/MBTI-16.html ) that women are about twice as likely as men to have F preferences (another reason why women frequently make excellent bosses).


                  I might also throw out that men tend to act differently in groups with women members than without. This may also play into the team dynamics. I will leave it to those better equipped than I (an ENTP) to pontificate on the details of those dynamics.