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Team composition, structure, members’ gender influence ability to focus, work together


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The ability of team members to collaborate on a set of tasks called collective intelligence (CI) varies significantly between teams. Research suggests that the level of collective attention (the quality and coordination of members’ focus) that a team develops influences the level of CI. A new study examined which factors increase collective attention, focusing on the influence of team hierarchy and its interaction with team gender composition.

By applying some new analytical techniques with algorithms to analyze speaking patterns, the researchers found that teams with a stable hierarchy (i.e., a leader whose position was not challenged) showed more cooperative, synchronous speaking patterns, while teams with an unstable hierarchy (i.e., the the leader’s position was subject to possible change) or an unspecified hierarchy (i.e., leaderless) exhibited more competitive, interrupting speech patterns. Whether cooperative or interruptive speaking patterns were associated with higher levels of CI depended on the gender composition of the teams, with female-dominated teams benefiting from cooperative speaking patterns and male-dominated teams benefiting from competitive speaking patterns.

The study, by researchers from Carnegie Mellon University, Johns Hopkins University, Northeastern University and Korea University, is published in organizational science.

“We sought to determine whether all teams benefit from the same team structures and interaction patterns, regardless of the characteristics of their members, or only those whose structures and patterns match the members’ preferred patterns of collaboration,” explains Anita Williams Woolley, associate professor of Organizational Behavior and Theory at CMU’s Tepper School of Business, who led the study. “We also wanted to know if CI can be stimulated by team design. We found that both the composition of a team and the way they are structured together influence collective attention and collective intelligence.”

CI has been shown to predict performance in a variety of contexts, including teams working in consulting, the military, software development, and online games.

In this study, researchers recruited 600 individuals from the study group of research participants from a US university in the mid-Atlantic Ocean for a two-hour study of group behavior. They randomly assigned participants to work in about 150 stable, unstable, or unspecified hierarchical teams, and they varied the gender composition of each team. They examined how team structure led to different behavioral manifestations of collective attention, as can be seen in verbal communication patterns.

To establish the hierarchical status of the teams, in some teams the members voted for a leader and were told that the leader would remain in that role for the duration of the study (stable hierarchy) or that the group could vote on the leader. leader in a later part of the study (unstable hierarchy); some teams did not vote for a leader (unspecified hierarchy). The teams then completed a CI test. Participants wore microphones to record their communication, and then the researchers applied some new analytical techniques using algorithms to capture interactional synchrony and competitive interruptions.

Teams with a stable hierarchy showed more cooperative speaking patterns, with team members speaking in coordinated ways. In contrast, teams with an unstable hierarchy or without a specified hierarchy showed more competitive speech patterns, with individuals more likely to interrupt others.

The effect of these cooperative and competitive speaking patterns on CI depended on the gender composition of the teams: women-majority teams had a higher CI when their speaking patterns were more cooperative and synchronous, while male-only teams had a higher CI when their speaking patterns were more cooperative. more competitive and with more interruptions. So, based on the gender composition of the teams, effective communication for one team didn’t necessarily look like effective communication for another.

“Hierarchy is not good or bad in itself for team functioning, but its benefits stem, at least in part, from its ability to increase collective attention,” said Rosalind Chow, associate professor of Organizational Behavior and Theory at Tepper School. or CMU from CMU. Business, who co-authored the study. “In addition, it is not only that hierarchy can influence team processes, but also how team members react to team processes that determine team performance. In our case, we show that team reactions to a team process depend on the composition of the team.”

The study authors note that their results, based on a short lab-based assessment, may not generalize to longer-term collaborations in other settings. That said, the strength of participants’ response to these circumstances when working with a group of strangers for a short period of time was surprising, and the researchers speculate that analogous situations in an organization where people’s careers are at stake would be even stronger. can be.

“Our findings add to a growing body of evidence that a team’s level of collective attention is an important foundation for the development of collective intelligence,” Woolley said. “Organizational leaders who understand the mechanisms and know their team members can proactively design teams to improve collective attention and help them develop a high level of collective intelligence.”

Instability can benefit teams with different expertise

More information:
Anita Williams Woolley et al, Collective Attention and Collective Intelligence: The Role of Hierarchy and Team Gender Composition, organizational science (2022). DOI: 10.1287/orsc.2022.1602

Provided by Carnegie Mellon University

Quote: Team composition, structure, gender influence of members to focus, work together (2022, June 23) retrieved June 23, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-06-team-composition-members-gender- ability .html

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