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Collective Intelligence depends on social sensitivity and balanced conversational turn-taking

by Tom Austin  |  October 1, 2010  |  Comments Off on Collective Intelligence depends on social sensitivity and balanced conversational turn-taking

Science Magazine (the journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science) published an article yesterday on the factors contributing to Collective Intelligence in groups.

Very interesting piece of research! A few key findings:

  1. Just as there is a general capability to perform a broad range of work — individual intelligence, there is a similar general capability that can be a measure of a group of people working together. The authors call this “collective intelligence”
  2. Collective intelligence is not primarily a function of the intelligence of the individual members of the group (or of the ‘smartest’ person in the group).
  3. The strongest predictor of measured “collective intelligence” is the social *sensitivity* of the members and the equality of distribution of conversational turn-taking.

The interesting question, to me, is what can we do to raise people’s *social sensitivity* in the workplace and how can we train them in better group-dynamics practices (e.g., conversational turn-taking). What cues do people need to respond to and how can we better communicate those cues?

Digg (and all the similar voting mechanisms) are cute and somewhat effective but surely there are more effective ways of communicating social cues than aggregating the number of thumbs up and thumbs down given to a particular item.

By the way, the authors of the study note that the proportion of females in the group is also a predictor of the collective intelligence of the group, but this is because females are more likely to be more socially sensitive than their male counterparts. Social sensitivity is more important than gender (but gender tends to be predictive — not determinative — of social sensitivity).

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Tom Austin
VP & Gartner Fellow
20 years at Gartner
41 years IT industry

Tom Austin, VP, has been a Gartner Fellow since 1997. He drives Gartner's research content incubator (the Maverick Program) and is leading a new research community creating research on the emerging era of smart machines. Read Full Bio

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