We all have the endless meeting at work that is full re-runs, projects that actually take you a step backward and the teams that come up with wishful thinking rather the honest analogies.
Psychologists have known for a century that individuals vary in their cognitive ability. But are some groups, like some people, reliably smarter than others?
Working with several colleagues and students, we set out to answer that question. In our first two studies, which we published with Alex Pentland and Nada Hashmi of M.I.T. in 2010 in the journal Science, we grouped 697 volunteer participants into teams of two to five members. Each team worked together to complete a series of short tasks, which were selected to represent the varied kinds of problems that groups are called upon to solve in the real world. One task involved logical analysis, another brainstorming; others emphasized coordination, planning and moral reasoning.