Why Some Teams are Smarter than Others

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This past Sunday, the New York Times featured an article summarizing research examining what factors make some teams smarter than others. Anite Woolley, Thomas W. Malone and Christopher Chabris reference their studies about this question.

Their latest original research, conducted in collaboration with David Engel and Lisa X. Jing was published in PLOS One last month. According to the authors:

"The smartest teams were distinguished by three characteristics.

First, their members contributed more equally to the team’s discussions, rather than letting one or two people dominate the group.

Second, their members scored higher on a test called Reading the Mind in the Eyes, which measures how well people can read complex emotional states from images of faces with only the eyes visible.

Finally, teams with more women outperformed teams with more men. Indeed, it appeared that it was not “diversity” (having equal numbers of men and women) that mattered for a team’s intelligence, but simply having more women. This last effect, however, was partly explained by the fact that women, on average, were better at “mindreading” than men."

It is clear intelligence of the team is a contributing factor.  However, what they have started to learn is the ability to read facial expressions is a key factor as well as a more general ability, known as “Theory of Mind,” to consider and keep track of what other people feel, know and believe, and women were generally better at this body language interpretation than men.