It is increasingly evident that as we unpack how we get the best results from thinking, we don’t do it alone. Moreover, the elements that contribute emphasize diversity. Two synergistic events highlight this.
First, my colleague Harold Jarche has an interesting post riffing off of Stephen Johnson’s new book, Future Perfect. In looking at patterns that promote more effective decision making, an experiment is cited. In that study, a diverse group of lower intelligence produces better outputs than a group of relatively homogenous smart folks. They quote Scott Page, saying “Diversity trumps ability”. Hear hear.
This resonated particularly in light of an article I discovered last week that talked about Tom Malone’s work on looking at what he calls “collective intelligence“. In it, Tom says “Our future as a species may depend on our ability to use our global collective intelligence to make choices that are not just smart, but also wise.” I couldn’t agree more, and am very interested in the wisdom part. Of interest in the article is a series of studies he did looking at what led to better outputs from groups, and they debunked a number of obvious factors including the above issue of intelligence. Two compelling features were the social perceptiveness of the group, e.g. how well they tuned in to what other members of the group thought, and how even the turn-taking was. The more everyone had an equal chance to talk (instead of a one-sided conversation), and the more socially aware the group, the better the output. Interestingly, which he correlated to the socially aware, was that the more women the better!
The point being that learning social skills, using good meeting processes, and emphasizing diversity, all actions similar to those needed for effective learning organizations, lead to better decision making. If you want good decisions, you need to break down hierarchies, open up the conversation channels, and listen. We have good science about practices that lead to effective outcomes for organizations. Are you practicing them?