I recently read a fascinating New York Times article that dug deep into the topic of workplace teams.
The article acknowledges that many people are disgruntled with office teams and/or workplace groups. We have all experienced wishful group thinking, personality conflicts and outright inefficiencies when “teamwork” is supposed to help us work smarter. It then dares to ask –
“So what makes some teams smarter or more efficient than others?”
This is where things get really interesting. They did a very scientific study (the likes of which you can read here), and the findings were quite surprising.
Among the results:
- Teams with higher average I.Q.s didn’t score much higher on collective intelligence tasks than did teams with lower average I.Q.s.
- Teams with more extroverted people, or teams whose members reported feeling more motivated to contribute to their group’s success also did not score higher than their counterparts.
- Smarter teams’ members contributed more equally to the team’s discussions, rather than letting one or two people dominate the group.
- Smarter teams’ members scored higher on a test called Reading the Mind in the Eyes, which measures how well people can read complex emotional states from images of faces with only the eyes visible.
- Teams with more women performed stronger.
- Teams with members who communicated a lot, participated equally and possessed good emotion-reading skills scored higher.
- Emotion-reading mattered just as much for the online teams whose members could not see one another as for the teams that worked face to face. What makes teams smart must be not just the ability to read facial expressions, but a more general ability, known as “Theory of Mind,” to consider and keep track of what other people feel, know and believe.
Were you surprised to see how significant empathy-driven factors are in leading to team success? Read the whole article for more information, and let me know your reactions in the comments!