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Thursday Complexity Post
February 12, 2015

What Makes a Better Team? More Women        

The teams with the smartest members aren't necessarily the smartest teams.


Researchers who teamed up with Alex Pentland and Nada Hashmi of MIT grouped 697 volunteers into teams with two to five members and studied how they performed several short tasks that required such common skills as logical analysis, brainstorming, planning, coordination and moral reasoning. Volunteers took individual IQ tests, but teams with the highest average IQs weren't necessarily the most successful. Nor were the teams with most extroverts nor the most highly motivated members.


The most successful teams with the best collective intelligence, it turned out, had three characteristics. Their members contributed equally to group discussions rather than having a few members who dominated. Teams with more women outperformed teams with more men. And the most successful teams had members who scored highest on a test called Reading the Mind in the Eyes. That test is designed to measure how well people can read emotional states by looking at facial images that only show the eyes. The study is described in a New York Times story by researchers Anita Woolley, Thomas W. Malone, and Christopher F. Chabris.


An Atlantic story by Derek Thompson stresses the importance empathy and social sensitivity. Generally, the story says, women outperform men on the Eyes test, which helps explain why teams with more women tend to have higher collective intelligence. Elements of that trait include an ability to read complex emotions and skill at interpreting nonverbal clues.


Interestingly, another study showed that good collective intelligence is just as important for teams working virtually as it is for teams working face to face. A study by Woolley, Malone, Chabris, David Engel and Lisa X. Jing in PLoS One examined teams that worked together face to face and teams that worked virtually. Emotion reading skill was just as important in the success of online teams. The other characteristics that helped in person teams-frequent good quality conversation and equal participation-also were crucial online.


Henri Lipmanowicz and Keith McCandless wrote the book The Surprising Power of Liberating Structures and created the Liberating Structures website, which describes simple methods to improve the way we meet, interact and collaborate. Lipmanowicz says the use of Liberating Structures (LS) can help people learn the communication, participation and emotion reading skills that create good teamwork. While traditional paths to learning these skills is slow, expensive and unreliable,  Lipmanowicz says, people who experience using LS can learn them quickly.


Are you skilled at reading emotions? Take the Reading the Mind in the Eyes test here. Read some thoughts on the test here.  



Share your thoughts on this post on the Complexity Matters blog.  



Remember PlexusCalls!



Healthcare PlexusCalls   

Wednesday, February 18, 2015  1:00PM Eastern

Community Mobilization: A Necessary Strategy for Addressing Critical Health Problems
Guests: Lou Giancola, Cindy Wyman and Tom Bigda-Peyton                 


Many factors affecting health are found beyond the walls, and beyond the scope, of hospitals and clinics. Lou Giancola, CEO of South County Hospital in Wakefield, Rhode Island, and Cindy Wyman, AVP of Market Development, teamed up with Tom Bigda-Peyton of Second Curve Systems with the intent of mobilizing the community toward a fuller realization of the hospital's mission: "to promote the health and well-being of the community we serve." This goes beyond community health needs assessment or community engagement. It involves an active citizenry, inspired by the hospital, to work on needs that might otherwise go unfunded (such as behavioral and mental health services for at-risk children and families) or unnoticed (such as prevention services and creating healthy environments for adults). It entails aiming for collective impact among multiple entities, building new forms of collaboration and funding strategies, and creating a backbone organization that can advocate for new policies and inspire concerned citizens to partner with the healthcare delivery system along with clinics, schools, provider networks, and related social service agencies.


Lou, Cindy and Tom will join the call to share the story of how members of the southern Rhode Island community have formed a collective impact initiative and are beginning to address a range of needs from prevention to policy change to environmental shifts, including healthy eating, positive parenting, life skills for children, and addressing root causes of poverty. Please join the call to learn about this project and share your own experiences.



Special PlexusCalls Webinar 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015  1:00PM Eastern

Liberating Structures, Complexity, and Relational Coordination
Guests: Jeff Cohn, Keith McCandless, Tony Suchman, and Jody Hoffer Gittell                     


Conventional wisdom suggests that incremental change and transformational change are opposites. Small relational changes generate marginal results and big formal changes are needed to transform an organization. Makes perfect sense. Too perfect.


Is it possible that the opposite is also accurate: incremental approaches are a path to quantum transformation?


By liberating many small adaptive and relational changes, is it possible to achieve critical mass? By doing so are we shifting attractor patterns? Are we changing the microdynamics and habits that underpin culture? Do we have theories that explain the surprising or better-than-expected results often generated through the practice of Liberating Structures, Relational Coordination, and Adaptive Positive Deviance? Do these theories explain how small changes generate big results and big efforts can change nothing?


This will be a highly interactive event that requires your participation, so come ready to share your experiences and reflections, and to learn from others!



See all upcoming PlexusCalls on the Plexus Calendar. Subscribe to the PlexusCalls or Healthcare PlexusCalls podcasts. Or, visit the Community section of for the audio archive.  


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