Smarter Groups & Collective Intelligence

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What happens when a bunch of smart people get together? Smarts aren’t necessarily cumulative, according to an article by Thomas Malone on Quartz, so really, anything could happen.

According to a study conducted by Malone and his colleagues, collective intelligence isn’t the sum of the individual intelligence of people in a group; it’s more complex than that. In fact, it’s a bit like the IQ + EQ + TQ + BQ* of a group. Malone’s study found that collective intelligence is dependent on factors such as social intelligence, participation and gender balance.

Social intelligence is about guessing people’s emotions depending on the look in their eyes. Some people are better at it than others. This factor was partly related to another finding from Malone’s study, that gender balance is also important to collective intelligence – particularly if it was weighted towards having more women in the group, because women tend to be more socially perceptive than men.

The other thing that the study found about social intelligence was that it applied to both face-to-face and virtual groups, who couldn’t actually see each other’s faces. It turns out that people who are high on social intelligence and able to ‘read’ people are equally good at interpreting the otherwise ‘hidden’ emotions icon texts and words.

Participation was another key factor in determining collective intelligence. Smarter groups tend to be more evenly balanced in terms of participation, with all individuals contributing equally to the conversation as opposed to one or two dominating the discourse. It makes sense. None of us is as good as all of us.

* Intelligence Quotient + Emotion Quotient + Technology Quotient + Bloody Quick!

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Kevin Roberts

Kevin Roberts is founder of Red Rose Consulting; business leader and educator; author and speaker; adviser on marketing, creative thinking and leadership.


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