Friday, June 24, 2011

Does adding men to a group make the group dumber?

Does adding men to a group make the group dumber?

New preliminary finding reported at the Harvard Business Review:

 Adding more women to a group may make the group smarter.

Previous related finding:

 Collective intelligence of groups is roughly independent of intelligence of individual members

Previous assumption:

 A more diverse group is better than a less diverse group.

Surprising new possible implication:

 Gender could potentially be more important than diversity in collective intelligence of a group, with women adding to group intelligence and men detracting from it.


 This is a preliminary finding not yet a robust one. It has been reported in two studies by the same team under a limited range of conditions.

 Collective intelligence is not the only thing of importance in group problem solving.

 The effect of gender may be through process factors that potentially could be achieved in other ways as well if isolated.

 The effect has not been tested very far yet at the extremes.

 Measured of collective intelligence are not as standardized as measures of individual intelligence, which are themselves of mixed value in actual problem solving.

Additional thoughts:

This is a preliminary finding but it seems plausible to me and if it is borne out robustly then combined with the previous finding that collective intelligence is roughly independent of individual intelligence of group members, this seems to mean that (1) group process is more important to collective intelligence than individual insights, and (2) that group process depends strongly on gender.

The first still amazes me but I think it may be true, and if so, the second one seems even more plausible. My impression is that there is a lot less constructive interaction between men than between women in group processes in general.

My own speculation is that while both experience a mixture of task and relationship tension in groups, women leverage the relationship tension more constructively, whereas men tend to align more quickly when they agree and to stonewall more strongly when they disagree. Men usually seem to be more likely to drift toward a goal of satisficing (coming to the first satisfactory solution) and then disengaging, whereas women seem to interact in a more prolonged way. I'm guessing that this contributes to collective intelligence as it is being measured here in some way.


Article on MindHacks:

Interview at HBR:

Chart (The Female Factor):

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