Are You Smarter in a Group?

“There’s been a tendency to focus on the negative, the mob psychology, the idea that people can bring out the worst in each other,”  says Robert Goldstone, a professor of psychological and brain sciences at Indiana University. “There’s just as much evidence that people can bring out the best in each other.”

While we’ve all sat through tedious meetings that accomplished little if anything, we’ve also seen the opposite where group intelligence was greater than our own.

Recent research says yes, you are smarter when you work in a group: group intelligence outperforms what you would expect to find by averaging the IQs of individuals in the group. Carolyn Y. Johnson reports  in her article “Group IQ” in The Boston Globe that group intelligence “is not strongly tied to either the average intelligence of the members or the team’s smartest member.” The research also found that, surprisingly,

a group’s motivation, satisfaction, and unity were unimportant. Instead, the researchers found that when a group had a high level of collective intelligence, the members tended to score well on a test that measured how good they were at reading other people’s emotions. They also found that groups with overbearing leaders who were reluctant to cede the floor and let the others talk did worse than those in which participation was better distributed and people took turns speaking.

Research also indicated that groups with the best performance change over time and that

the proportion of women in the group was a predictor of collective intelligence — a factor they believe was likely influenced by women’s generally superior social sensitivity.

“Instead of seeing groups as nameless and faceless affiliations that swallow up an individual’s identity, the new work on collective behavior suggests that in company lies opportunity,” writes Carolyn Y. Johnson in her article “Group IQ” in The Boston Globe December 19, 2010.

In company lies opportunity for YOU!

This reminds me of the importance of networking. Not just to make contacts for your business and maybe a sale, but for the benefits of connecting with the group intelligence.

I think this is one of the reasons why I enjoy the Women’s Business Socials held each month in Ojai (the next one is Tuesday January 18 from 6-pm at Azu). My intelligence quotient goes up exponentially when I engage with these other smart, interesting business women.

In 2011, one of my resolutions is to attend at least two networking events a month with people I enjoy and admire. That means I’m going to do my best to attend gatherings of Linchpins, Green Drinks, Thirsty Girls, and, of course, the Women’s Business Socials!

What are your New Year’s Resolutions?


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