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?
Aaron Eden says
Clark, great post. I’m currently developing a curriculum for a Communication and Media Literacy course for high school freshmen that seeks to, among other things, facilitate the development of the skills you list above. Further, your last paragraph above is a hum-dinger. Way to say it like it is. If only more educational institutions took that to heart. I think it was Linda Darling Hammond who said that the US is is the best at conducting research on learning and education and the worst at implementing it. The same could be said for organizational learning in many schools. Not sure how we are supposed to prepare our youth to excel in the world when the organizations most of them are involved in are not using that good science you mention above. How will they get the practice to develop the skills they need? Well, disruption seems to be nibbling at the edges. It will be very interesting to see what the next 5 years brings in those areas.
John R. Turner says
I enjoyed your recent post. I have added a couple of additional items to add to your post.
The more collective members have an equal turn to talk refers to the ‘psychological safety’ of the collective. Edmonson (2012), in her book teaming, provided the following benefits for teams (the collective) that provide a psychological safe environment;
â€¢ Encourages speaking up.
â€¢ Enables clarity of thought.
â€¢ Supports productive conflict.
â€¢ Mitigates failure.
â€¢ Promotes innovation.
â€¢ Removes obstacles to pursuing goals for achieving performance.
â€¢ Increases accountability (p. 126).
Additionally, while everyone has a chance to discuss their point of view it is important that new information is presented. Research has shown that shared knowledge (information shared by two or more members) is more likely to be discussed than unshared knowledge (new information shared by one member). Higher performance has been shown to result from groups who discuss unshared knowledge.
Lastly, presenting different points of view from each member works well. However, each member’s point of view also needs to be considered equally. This is one critical area in which I feel the success of the collective holds true, equal discussion and equal consideration.