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Some time back I commented on the intriguing research of Anita Woolley and Thomas Malone, which concluded that what really makes the difference to team effectiveness is what they called ‘Collective Intelligence.’ They defined Collective Intelligence as two sets of behaviours:

1. Equality of contribution to discussion and decision making (versus dominance by a sub-group of team members) and

2. Ability to read the emotional cues of other team members,

plus, the presence of more women, the latter of which is partly explained by their ability to read emotional cues.

In their words, “We have found that, just as with individuals, there is a single statistical factor for a group that predicts how well the group will perform on a wide range of very different tasks.”

In more recent research, they have replicated these findings, not just in relation to face-to-face teams, but found that the same features make the difference in virtual teams. Being able to ‘read emotions’ was seen to be as important in virtual as face-to-face teams, which they put down to being more than an ability to read facial cues, but ‘to consider and keep track of what other people feel, know and believe’.

New York Times article summarises their research briefly,  or go to the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence.

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