Group intelligence and small cues

Aaron Saenz reports research from MIT into collective intelligence. They studied the effectiveness of a series of groups of varying sizes and performing a number of different tasks. Then they attempted to pin down the key factors that led to group success.

Interestingly the IQ of group members was correlated with group performance but only weakly. So what was strongly correlated? Two things: social sensitivity, and turn taking (ie allowing everyone in the group time to contribute).

Although media have focussed on a third (women members), it turns out that this is really about social sensitivity.

I got sidetracked into the online social sensitivity test mentioned in the article. I can’t speak for its academic value, but it was a good reminder of how much meaning (correct or not) we can make from fragmentary visual information – in this case, another person’s eyes.

I think this kind of sensitivity is easily mocked or despised. I like to stick up for the value of the small connections and push back against the grandiosity of big ideas. I occasionally add things to my Crumbs! category which reflect this.

When doing actiivities for facilitators to explore how they work, Viv and I often play with small differences. We might get people to play a status exchange, inviting them to see if they can shift status just with their eyes. These little games often give us a glimpse of the richness of small cues.

Hat tip: jascharohr

1 thought on “Group intelligence and small cues

  1. Johnnie Moore

    Very interesting post, Johnnie.

    Would you say that social sensitivity is the same thing as emotional intelligence or EQ?


    Anthony: I am sure they are related and I think the terms mean slightly different things to different people. I am a touch wary of EQ; it’s intended to be a counterpoint to IQ but does tempt some people into concretising something that’s fuzzy.


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