3 Secrets to Team Building from the Experts at MIT

MIT knows: when groups get together to do things, sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t.

MIT-logoEveryone who’s ever worked in an office setting has experienced the special pain that results from working with a dysfunctional group…meetings that go nowhere, projects that end up stuck in a quagmire of inefficiency, and group initiatives that seem to play out according to a single, dominant personality.

Yet, for every broken team, there’s one which seems to excel at every task it’s given. Ideas are shared, good decisions are made, and things get done. Also, teams seem to be consistently good or bad…indicating success isn’t based on the task at hand or luck. No, it’s obvious that some groups have got the teamwork skills to make things happen and others, well…not so much.

What Makes One Group Smarter than the Next?

How groups work is actually a large field of study, which is why we’re able to improve our approach to team building all the time. Psychologists have been studying “collective intelligence” for decades, and it’s partly their work which drives and informs the designers of our team building workshops.

What makes a team smart? Is it smart people? Is it smart leaders?

A team of scientists from MIT as well as Union College and Carnegie Mellon were recently featured in a New York Times article where they answered these questions and more. What they found was astonishing- but more importantly, it told us that our team building workshops are right in line with these latest findings.

What The New Study Says

Secret #1: Social Sensitivity

First, the research suggests that smart teams aren’t simply collections of smart people. In fact, having people with high IQs had very little at all to do with how well a team achieved its goals!

What matters more, they say, is social sensitivity. In other words, what really matters on a team is the degree to which members are able to read non-verbal clues. If James makes a remark like “well, what does our local expert Denise have to say?” in a sarcastic tone, what he’s really saying is that Denise is a know-it-all. If you pick up on what James is really saying, then you’re reading his non-verbal clues. You’ve just demonstrated social sensitivity.

Groups which have a higher collective amount of this type of “reading the mind” knowledge were found to be better at doing whatever they set out to do.

Secret #2: Everyone Participates

The second factor in what makes a smart team was found to be the level of participation by each team member. The “smart groups” were the ones which fostered an environment where each member participated in equal measure. Having one person dominate the “group think” was a recipe for failure. The only time that type of setup works is when the task given the group is one which requires the skill of just one team member.

Secret #3: Women

The final factor which led to groups doing better was the percentage of women on the team. That’s right: the more women on a team, the smarter the team becomes. Again, do not confuse team intelligence with individual intelligence. This doesn’t show us that women are necessarily smarter. It simply may mean that they’re better at reading minds and making sure everyone gets a chance to contribute.

Our Workshops are Right There!

With team building workshops like The Big Picture, which stress participation from everyone, we’re already there on the research findings. Thank you MIT et al. for backing up what we already know: teams just do better and get smarter when everyone gets involved!

The researchers showed us something else we already knew: understanding people is key to making a group work smarter and harder. That “mind-reading” bit the research found was one key to success? That’s another way of saying it’s important to understand personality styles…and that’s what our DiSC® Personality Training Worskshop is all about!

Now, we’re not saying we’re up there with MIT and Carnegie Mellon, but we do think we’ve got some pretty smart cookies on our own team here at Magnovo.