Collective intelligence depends on social skills

Researchers from MIT and elsewhere recently published a study where groups of two to five people had to solve various problems such as “visual puzzles… negotiations, brainstorming, games and complex rule-based design assignments.”

They found that “the average and maximum intelligence of individual group members did not significantly predict the performance of their groups overall.” However:

Groups whose members had higher levels of “social sensitivity” were more collectively intelligent [i.e. those groups had better scores on the problems they solved together]. “Social sensitivity has to do with how well group members perceive each other’s emotions,” says Christopher Chabris, a co-author.

The study was billed as a way for managers to form better teams. But the more important point to me is: social intelligence is critical in business. When students enter the workforce without well-honed social skills, the teams they’re a part of are less effective and make worse decisions.

As another of the study’s co-authors said, “What individuals can do all by themselves is becoming less important; what matters more is what they can do with others and by using technology.” If this is true, effective schools will need to prioritize social intelligence in the curriculum.

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