In this chapter, we’ve identified how some of the characteristics we use to describe individuals also can
describe teams. For example, individuals can be high in the trait of openness, as can a team. Along the same lines, have you noticed that some teams seem to be smart, while others seem, um, dumb? This characteristic has nothing to do with the average IQ of the team members but instead reflects the functionality of the whole team. Teams that are synergistic excel in logical analysis, brainstorming, coordination, planning, and moral reasoning. And teams that are dumb? Think of long unproductive meetings, social loafing, and interpersonal conflicts. You might be remembering a few teams you’ve witnessed that are in the dumb category, but we hope you can think of a few that excelled. Smart teams tend to be smart in everything—for any task, they will find a workable solution. But what makes them smart? Researchers in an MIT study grouped 697 subjects into teams of 2–5 members to solve tasks, looking for the characteristics of smart teams (they weren’t all smart).
The findings were:
1. Smart teams did not allow individual members to dominate. Instead, there were more equal contributions from members than in other teams.
2. Smart teams had more members who were able to read minds. Just kidding. But the members were able to read complicated emotions by looking into the eyes of others. There is a test for this ability called Reading the Mind in the Eyes.
3. Smart teams had more women. It’s not that smart teams had more gender equality; these teams simply had more women. This result might be partly due to the fact that more women scored higher in the Reading the Mind in the Eyes test. The researchers recently replicated the study using 68
teams and again found that some teams were smarter than others. This study added a new angle to the research: How would teams working in person differ from teams working online? Surprisingly, there was little difference: All smart teams had more equal member communication (and plenty of it) and were good at emotion reading. When the online collaborators could not see each other, they practiced the Theory of Mind, remembering and reacting to the emotional cues they were able to detect through any mode of communication. The theory of Mind is related to emotional intelligence (EI), which we discussed in Chapter 4. When we have the opportunity to hand-pick team members, we can look for those who listen as much as they speak, express empathy, and remember what others tell them about themselves. For teams to which we are assigned, we can seek these attributes in others and help guide the team toward its best self. As for IQ? Here’s the good news: Recent research indicates that our membership in a team actually makes us smarter decision-makers as individuals!
10-16. From your experiences in teams, do you agree with the researchers’ findings on the characteristics of smart teams? Why or why not?
10-17. On the highly functioning teams in which you’ve been a member, what other characteristics might have contributed to the success?
10-18. The authors who suggested that membership in a team makes us smarter found that teams were more rational and quicker at finding solutions to difficult probability problems and reasoning tasks than were individuals. However, after participation in the study, team members were much better at decision making on their own, even up to 5 weeks later. Do you think this spillover effect would happen equally for people in smart teams and dumb teams? Why or why not?
Source: E. E. F. Bradford, I. Jentzsch, and J.-C. Gomez, “From Self to Cognition: Theory of Mind
Mechanisms and Their Relation to Executive Functioning,” Cognition 138 (2015): 21–34; B.
Maciejovsky, M. Sutter, D. V. Budescu, et al., “Teams Make You Smarter: How Exposure to Teams
Improves Individual Decisions in Probability and Reasoning Tasks,” Management Science 59, no. 6
(2013): 1255–70; and A. Woolley, T. W. Malone, and C. Chabris, “Why Some Teams Are Smarter
Than Others,” The New York Times, January 18, 2015, 5.
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Go to mymanagementlab.com for the following Assisted-graded writing questions:
10-19. Regarding Case Incident 1, do you think it’s necessary for everyone to speak up in a team? Why or why not?
10-20. In reference to Case Incident 2, do you think you can read emotions from people’s eyes enough to react well to them in teams? Why or why not? There are Reading the Mind from the Eyes tests online if you want to test your skill.
10-21. MyManagementLab Only – comprehensive writing assignment for this chapter.