New research from Melbourne Institute of Technology has found that work teams with more women demonstrate greater social sensitivity and in turn collective intelligence, compared to teams containing fewer women.

To arrive at their conclusions, the researchers conducted two studies in which 699 people were placed in groups of two to five and worked on tasks that ranged from visual puzzles to negotiations, brainstorming, games and complex rule-based design assignments. The researchers concluded that a group’s collective intelligence accounted for about 30 to 40 percent of the variation in performance.

Moreover, the researchers found that the performances of groups were not primarily due to the individual abilities of the group members. To determine this, many of the participants also performed similar tasks individually. The average and maximum intelligence of individuals did not significantly predict the performance of their groups.

To record the interactions of people, the researchers equipped study participants with wearable electronic badges — designed by Pentland’s Media Lab group — that provided a complete record of a group’s conversational patterns and revealed a group’s propensity to take turns. “When you do that, it’s possible to get patterns you’ve never seen before,” said Pentland.

Only when analyzing the data did the co-authors suspect that the number of women in a group had significant predictive power. “We didn’t design this study to focus on the gender effect,” Malone said. “That was a surprise to us.” One implication is that the level of collective intelligence should keep rising along with the proportion of women in a group.

See the full article here.