Expertise and collective intelligence: when teams are (and are not) more than the sum of their parts

Published on July 31, 2013 Reviewed on May 30, 2019   31 min
0:00
Hello, my name is Anita Williams Woolley. I'm a professor of Organizational Behavior in Theory at the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University. Today, I'm going to talk about expertise and collective intelligence or when teams are and are not more than the sum of their parts.
0:21
In this presentation, I am first going to tell you about some recent research on collective intelligence in human groups. In doing so, I'm going to review some background on individual intelligence research and how this has previously been applied to groups, as well as the results of some recent laboratory studies looking at collective intelligence in human groups. After I summarize this research, I will then try to distill for you the key ingredients for successful teams including what we have learned about team composition, and some essential features of team communication. By the conclusion of the presentation, I hope to summarize for you what we have learned about the conditions under which teams are and are not more than the sum of their parts.
1:08
If you were to google collective intelligence, many of the examples that would come up in your search would be from the animal kingdom, and there are always wonderful examples of collective intelligence in animal groups. For example, ants are very simple creatures individually without much memory or problem-solving capacity, but collectively, they can accomplish some fairly impressive things. They can build nests which are structurally quite sophisticated, they can locate in prioritize sources of food, they can construct bridges to cross difficult terrain, or carry objects that are many multiples their body weight. Flocks of birds exhibit similar levels of sophistication. In both cases, these animal groups can enhance their collective survival and adapt to a range of dynamic conditions largely because of the manner in which they are hard-wired to attend to signals sent by other group members, and to respond in a manner that enhances the objectives of the whole.
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Expertise and collective intelligence: when teams are (and are not) more than the sum of their parts

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