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Does the Inclusion of Women in Team Decision Making Actually Increase a Group’s Intelligence?

Some new and interesting research by Anita Woolley (awoolley@cmu.edu) and Thomas Malone (malone@mit.edu) has been cited in June’s Harvard Business Review. Woolley is an Assistant Professor of Organizational Behavior and Theory at Carnegie Mellon University, and Malone is the Patrick J. McGovern Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management and the founding Director of the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence.

Their research of team behavior and problem solving makes an interesting business case for gender diversity, concluding that “there’s little correlation between a group’s collective intelligence and the IQs of its individual members. But if a group includes more women, its collective intelligence rises.” Thus, where strategic business decisions are being made at a group or team level, the inclusion of women spikes the quotient of intelligence, making a positive difference in decision-making outcomes. As Malone states, “The standard argument is that diversity is good and you should have both men and women in a group. But so far, the data show, the more women, the better.” Indeed, research shows teams with more women tended to fall above the average of the collective intelligence scores of the teams studied by Malone and Woolley; the teams populated by men were below average in the same regard.

The moral: It’s a no-brainer! If you want smarter boards of directors, corporate committees, or strategic business teams, Woolley and Malone’s research supports increasing the participation of women.