Getting on the Right Team

So much of work these days is team based, requiring groups of diverse people to work together on complex or risky initiatives. Consider the challenges that shift working groups face like workers overseeing our nuclear power safety, emergency medical teams, miners working deep underground, shift workers on oil rigs around the world…How can work be any more complex or risky than in these environments?

A recent study co-authored by MIT, Carnegie Mellon University, and Union College researchers, and published Sept. 30, in the advance online issue of the journal Science, addresses the cognitive capabilities of a team, as opposed to the intelligence of individuals. The study found that collective intelligence among groups of people who cooperate well is linked to the number of women in the group. The researchers reported that groups whose members had higher levels of “social sensitivity” were more collectively intelligent. The teams containing more women demonstrated greater social sensitivity and in turn greater collective intelligence.

So what is meant by the term socially sensitive? In the case of this study, it meant discerning emotions from looking at peoples’ faces. For an excellent book that will help you to improve your ability to read peoples’ faces, look up Emotions Revealed by psychologist Paul Ekman. The book shows how the following emotions are revealed through facial expression (including photos!).
1. Grief, sadness
2. Anger
3. Surprise
4. Contentment, Enjoyment, sensory pleasures
5. Fear
6. Disgust, contempt

Interestingly, the average and maximum intelligence of individual group members did not significantly predict the performance of their groups overall. Having a lot of smart people in the group didn’t automatically cause the group to rise to the top. In the study, 699 people were placed in groups with two to five members. The groups worked together on tasks ranging from puzzles to negotiations, brainstorming, games and complex rule-based assignments. Only later, when analyzing the data, did the researchers notice that the number of women in a group seemed to predict higher functioning teams.

Obviously, many men are also socially sensitive. The study researchers stated that they believed that having group members with higher social sensitivity is better regardless of whether they are male or female. Perhaps it would be good to study the social sensitivity of shift workers. After adjusting for the impact of sleep deprivation, shift workers are probably a pretty socially sensitive group. After all, it takes a certain amount of social smarts to work 24/7 and stay safe and healthy and connected with family and friends. And, these jobs do require a heightened amount of teamwork for success.

©2010 Circadian Age, Inc. ˜Working Nightss’

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