I recently read an interesting article published earlier this year in the NY Times Magazine by reporter Charles Duhigg, - What Google Learned From its Quest to Build the Perfect Team. The article is focused on Project Aristotle, an initiative Google embarked on in 2012 that examined hundreds of Google teams in their quest to learn why some work groups thrive while others falter.
“[M]any of today’s most valuable firms have come to realize that analyzing and improving individual workers - a practice known as employee performance optimization - isn’t enough,” writes Duhigg. “As commerce becomes increasingly global and complex, the bulk of modern work is more and more team-based… at many companies, more than three-quarters of an employee’s day is spent communicating with colleagues.”
“In Silicon Valley, software engineers are encouraged to work together, in part because studies show that groups tend to innovate faster, see mistakes more quickly and find better solutions to problems,” he later adds. “Studies also show that people working in teams tend to achieve better results and report higher job satisfaction. In a 2015 study, executives said that profitability increases when workers are persuaded to collaborate more. Within companies and conglomerates, as well as in government agencies and schools, teams are now the fundamental unit of organization. If a company wants to outstrip its competitors, it needs to influence not only how people work but also how they work together.”
The article devotes several paragraphs to the pioneering research on group performance by MIT professor Tom Malone, CMU professor Anita Woolley and their various collaborators over the past 8 years. Their work addressed a very intriguing set of questions: Do groups exhibit characteristic levels of intelligence which can be measured and used to predict the group’s performance across a wide variety of cognitive tasks? If so, can you devise tests to measure the group’s intelligence using methodologies and statistical techniques similar to those that have been applied to measure the IQs of individuals over the past hundred years?