Magazine article People & Strategy

How to Build a Smarter Team (It's Not What You Think)

Magazine article People & Strategy

How to Build a Smarter Team (It's Not What You Think)

Article excerpt

The obvious thing to build a smarter team is to add more smart people to it. It turns out that this doesn't work. Nor do some other "common sense" activities make a difference: kicking the slackers off, adding more extroverts, adding more people committed to the team. So what does make the difference?

A study by psychologist Chris Chabris (1)--best known for his part in the Invisible Gorilla research (2) that explores the nature of attention--reveals that there are three factors that make a team smarter, factors that work for both in-person and virtual teams.

The first factor is "the equality in distribution of conversational turn-taking." What that translates to for us is the extent to which conversation in a team is shared and more voices are heard, rather than it being dominated by one or two (typically the leader). The second factor, revealed by the fantastically named Reading the Mind Through the Eyes test, depends on team member's ability to understand what their colleagues are feeling. In short, empathy. And the final factor, and probably the most provocative? Add more women to the team. (3)

It turns out that to make your team smarter, you need to be braver. Because, as a leader, it takes courage to stop talking and allow other voices in the team to be heard. It takes courage to actually connect with how people are feeling and to respond to and manage that.

And not just courage. Practice as well. The challenge is most of us are advice-giving machines. …

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