Study: The Female Factor (Harvard Business Review, Woolley and McGovern, 2011)
Finding: The IQ of individuals in a group is not as important as how gender-diverse it is. Bringing women into the group causes the intelligence to rise.
Note about The Woman Effect Research Index: This study was performed by researchers not affiliated with InPower Women. Our Research Index includes all relevant research to the subject of women, business and power. We do not influence how the research was conducted or reported by the researchers. In our abstracts, we focus on pulling out the most actionable advice for individual women. To suggest additional research we should index, or discuss our choice of abstract focus, please contact us
InPower Insight: Add more women to your groups and watch the overall collective intelligence skyrocket.
The question was asked: do smarter people make smarter groups? The answer was a definitive, no. The factor that makes groups smart appears to be the balance of women they include in their midst. That’s great news! In this study, conducted by Carnegie Mellon professor Anita Woolley and MIT professor Thomas Malone, it was found that when groups included more women, their collective intelligence increased. For this study teams were created across a wide age range (18 to 60) and they were assigned a number of tasks that required team problem-solving. Tasks included solving puzzles, brainstorming and decision-making.
The surprising finds of this study were, the things that were hypothesized to be predictive of how a group would perfrom, were not. Group satisfaction, group cohesion, and group motivation were found to be non-factors when determining overall collective intelligence. Another surprising finding was that individual intelligence was also not a factor. The teams with members having high IQ scores did not fare as well as predicted while the groups that included more women excelled. In these more gender-diverse groups it was found that members were more prone to listen to each other, more open-minded and better able to accept constructive criticism rather than attempting to dominate the conversation. This was found to be in contrast to groups with all members having high IQs, who did not show the same sense of teamwork.
With this in mind Wooley and Malone have determined that not only is gender-diversity important to how a group functions and excels but really, the more women the better. Why is it that women in groups and gender-diverse groups are trumping groups of high IQ? Wooley and Malone think it’s because women are key role players. They are more “socially sensitive” and bring such things as cooperation, motivation, and satisfaction among group members, to the table.
Career Coaching Tip: For women: the next time you’re in a meeting or group discussion, if you feel you may not add as much to the conversation and are inclined to speak less – don’t. Speak up! The group you are in will perform better because you are in it and participate. For men: if you’re in a diverse group and notice the men dominating the conversation, encourage the women to participate because in the mixed gender dynamic you’re group is going to produce smarter results. For both genders: recognize that in the interactions between men and women where both are participating, your group effort is strengthened. Value each other’s contributions and encourage collaborative discussion between the genders to get the best possible output.
Keywords: Collective intelligence, Individual intelligence, Problem-solving, gender-diversity
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