Are some teams smarter than others? Have you taken part in a team that was completely dysfunctional? And have you also had the good fortune to work in a very effective team? What makes the difference? And did you perform as well, or in the same way, in both?
What makes a team “smart”?
Before answering this question, think about what makes you smart. Individual intelligence is defined by its broad scope, its generality. People who have good vocabularies also tend to have good math skills, for example, and vice versa.
So what makes a team smart? Research shows that groups that perform well on one task also perform well on other tasks. In other words, just like with individuals, it appears that some teams are just “smarter” than others.
However, smart teams are not necessarily teams filled with smart people. Neither are smart teams full of extroverts, or introverts, for example. Instead, there are three characteristics that distinguish smart teams from others.
- All team members contribute equally to the team’s discussions, without one or two people dominating the group.
- Members score higher on the “Reading the Mind in the Eyes” test, that is, they are better at sensing affect and emotions in another person’s eyes.
- Teams that include more women than men are “smarter,” in part because women tend to be better at mindreading.
These three attributes also hold for virtual teams. Even when team members can interact online only, smarter teams are those whose participants communicate a lot, participate equally and possess good emotion-reading skills.
We talk a lot about the need for individuals who drive an innovation project at Organizing4Innovation. Yet, these individuals cannot succeed on their own. They need a team. An individual can only achieve so much by him or herself, while the collective input of a team supporting the innovation endeavor can transform the idea into a practical, usable and valuable, and even a great solution.
Building a “smart” team is not an easy task, but some of the tips given above hopefully will help.