Group IQ

Picture 012a3One of the tricks in getting groups to be more creative is having a hand in determining who goes into the group. A number of gurus on increasing group creativity will mention the need for greater diversity in groups. How exactly does this work?

Wooley and Malone performed research on “group IQ.” Members of a group were tested for IQ individually and then randomly assigned to a team. Each team  was required to complete a number of complex tasks such as creative brainstorming, and solving puzzles. Interestingly enough the teams containing the people with higher IQs did not do any better. However, the teams that had women did.  The more women there were on a team, the better they did at the tasks, unless the team was entirely female.

Choi and Thompson found that rotating new members into already existing groups improved their performance in creative tasks. It was the influence of the “newcomers” that exerted a positive impact so that people already residing in the group increased both the number and diversity of ideas.

Of course, there are certain people you just don’t want to include in a group because it would drag the other people down, such as pessimists.  Right? Not at all. According to Haimowitz when people are primed to thing about difficult situations with negative outcome before work, their creative output was higher.  “Negative affect draws attention to problems and signals that effort needs to be invested to solve a problematic situation.”  The negative affect provides incongruent ideas that might not normally be considered a solution.  But this negative affect has to decrease to achieve the breakthrough idea. On other hand the person who starts positive and stays positive, remains less creative.

But can diversity be so great that it interferes with group creativity? Wooley and Malone point out that both extremely homogenous and extremely diverse groups simply aren’t as intelligent. So like anything, diversity can be pushed too far, but without it the group will just keep on churning out the same stagnant ideas.

 

Choi, Hoon-Seok and Thompson, Leigh. Old wine in a new bottle: Impact of membership change on group creativity. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Volume 98, Issue 2, November 2005, Pages 121–132
Haimowitz, B. For worker creativity, it helps to think negative, new research finds, Academy of Management. April 22, 2013
Woolley, A. and Malone, T. Defend Your Research: What Makes a Team Smarter? More Women, Harvard Business Review Magazine June, 2011.
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