Building A Smarter Team

From Silicon Valley to your office, some teams work better – and smarter – than others. We’ll look at the surprising reasons why.

As any ant knows, building a reliable team can be hard. (Flickr / Guildmn20)

As any ant knows, building a reliable team can be hard. (Flickr / Guildmn20)

The world is going to teamwork.  In the 1950s, about half of our work was done in teams.  Today, by one measure, it’s more like 90 percent.  Maybe it’s at the office.  Maybe it’s on Google Hangout.  Maybe it’s at the PTA.  But what makes a good team?  A smart team?  It’s not just a bunch of smart people, says a big new study.  It’s a crew that shares the floor, the talking time, it claims.  It’s a team that has high social sensitivity.  And it’s often, it says, a team with more women.  We need a cultural revolution, they say, to optimize our teams.  This hour On Point:  Are you onboard?  We’re talking teamwork.

— Tom Ashbrook


Anita Woolley, professor of organizational behavior at Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business.

Thomas Malone, professor management at MIT’s Sloan School of Management. Founding director of the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence. Author of “The Future of Work.” (@twmalone)

Morris Shechtman, founder of Fifth Wave Leadership.

From Tom’s Reading List

New York Times: Why Some Teams Are Smarter Than Others — “A new science of effective teamwork is vital not only because teams do so many important things in society, but also because so many teams operate over long periods of time, confronting an ever-widening array of tasks and problems that may be much different from the ones they were initially convened to solve. General intelligence, whether in individuals or teams, is especially crucial for explaining who will do best in novel situations or ones that require learning and adaptation to changing circumstances. We hope that understanding what makes groups smart will help organizations and leaders in all fields create and manage teams more effectively.”

PLOS One: Reading the Mind in the Eyes or Reading between the Lines? — “Our results provide strong empirical support for the conclusion that even the collaboration of teams working online can be characterized by a single collective intelligence factor, and that theory of mind abilities are just as important to group effectiveness in these online environments where many kinds of non-verbal communication are not possible. In other words, it appears that the Reading the Mind in the Eyes test does not just measure the ability to read emotions in eyes but also the ability to ‘read between the lines’ of text-based online interactions.”

The Atlantic: The Secret to Smart Groups: It’s Women — “The concept of “general intelligence”—the idea that people who are good at one mental task tend to be good at many others—was considered radical in 1904, when Charles Spearman proposed the theory of a ‘g factor.’ Today, however, it is among the most replicated findings in psychology. But whereas in 1904 the U.S. economy was a network of farms, mills, and artisans, today’s economy is an office-based affair, where the most important g for many companies doesn’t stand for general intelligence, but, rather, groups.”

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