Do women make working groups smarter?

Working groups made smarter with women running them

There’s a very interesting post at inventor Rayl Kurzweil’s website on research that suggests working groups might be made smarter if women are in them.

Let’s say you’re trying to solve a problem or come up with an idea for a new product line. You get a group of people together and ask them to brainstorm. Now, you’d expect that the smartest members of the group would help the others do better. It sort of makes sense – the brainiacs will lift the whole performance of the group, right?

Women as Meeting Facilitators

Surprisingly, that’s wrong. For the group to do really well, what you need are people who can tap into everybody’s talents, get everyone to speak, to share, to contribute. It turns out that women can be quite good in that role – it’s their participation that really makes a group work well together and lifts its ‘collective intelligence’ and could boost the group’s performance by 30 to 40 percent.

Collective Intelligence – Report Extract

“Groups whose members had higher levels of ‘social sensitivity’ — the willingness of the group to let all its members take turns and apply their skills to a given challenge — were more collectively intelligent.”

“Social sensitivity has to do with how well group members perceive each other’s emotions,” said Malone. “In groups where one person dominated, the group was less intelligent than in groups where the conversational turns were more evenly distributed.”

“Teams containing more women demonstrated greater social sensitivity and in turn collective intelligence, compared to teams containing fewer women.”

Are women better facilitators than men?

The article is long-ish, but interesting. To be clear, it doesn’t suggest that women are only good at this kind sensitivity, but, to my mind, that perhaps they are more likely to be good at it than men.

Certainly it shows the importance of getting people to work together, rather than try to outshine each other. Before you read the article, watch this chap explain what collective intelligence is.


Ray Kurzweil on collective intelligence in small teams

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