Seriosity founding director Thomas Malone is among the authors of an important new Science paper online this week. This paper is the first rigorous evidence that group intelligence is something much more than an aggregation of the intelligence of the individual members. See Professor Malone’s interview in an MIT news story here.
Surprisingly the contribution of individual members’ intelligence was less important to group intelligence than members’ scores on a scale of “social sensitivity” and members’ willingness to share the conversation. It’s worth noting that women in the study scored high on both of these two predictors, and female membership was positively correlated with group intelligence.
The paper concludes with the intriguing suggestion that better electronic collaboration tools could raise the collective intelligence of a group.
For our take on the prospects, see Chapter 7: Virtual Teams, in Total Engagement, specifically, the paragraphs below:
A prevailing view in business is that good collaborators—and good leaders—are born, not made. Do gamers agree? We assembled a team of seven expert guild leaders to observe collaboration and leadership in the games and extract generalization about why and how groups in the games succeed.10 Their conclusion? It’s about the environment more than the players. The places where collaboration happens and the processes by which it’s managed are more important than the innate capabilities of the people participating. When asked about the most important implication of that conclusion for serious work, a guild leader comment was: “Change the game, not the people.”
This conclusion emphasizes the last point in our list above all the others: collaboration infrastructure. In the real world, this usually means architecture: open seating, conversation pits, and, recently, the use of technology to create similar functions online. Games do a pretty good job of blending all of these components. Games create collaboration environments that redefine all the other points as environmental factors rather than attributes of people.
The multiplayer game environment that creates a setting for great collaboration is a blend of the designer’s vision and emergent properties resulting from the way players organize themselves into guilds. Game designers do a good job of making clear the objectives of large-scale collaboration effort; what’s hidden is how to achieve those goals. Designers make sure that it will take close coordination of many players with different skill sets to conquer a particular “boss,” the powerful computer-controlled monster that is the object of a raid. The game provides persistent and transparent reputational markers so players can easily recognize relevant talent. Timely metrics on the performance of individuals in the raid can be pulled out of the game and analyzed. Using this extraordinary infrastructure, guilds create collaborative styles and systems that reflect the group’s personality. DKP systems are one of these emergent properties.
The new research has us thinking some more about tools that stimulate “social sensibility” and conversation levelers. How do you see the opportunity differently?