Monday, December 27, 2010

Group IQ

Early in my career, I thought the path to success was making a name for myself - creating software, ideas, and innovation that would be uniquely associated with me.   My mentors gave me sage advice to ban the "I" word from my vocabulary and to focus on developing high functioning organizations.   A single individual can come and ago, but organizations can scale to enormous size and last beyond the strengths, weaknesses, and longevity of any one person.

Many books have been written about building organizations - Built to Last, In Search of Excellence, and The Innovators Dilemma,  but the idea I find most compelling was described in a recent Boston Globe article about Group IQ.

"Group intelligence, the researchers discovered, is not strongly tied to either the average intelligence of the members or the team�s smartest member. And this collective intelligence was more than just an arbitrary score: When the group grappled with a complex task, the researchers found it was an excellent predictor of how well the team performed."

When I was doing graduate work, I thought that a successful leader should be the smartest person in the room.   I've learned that the best leaders hire people who are smarter than themselves. Good leaders revel in the capabilities of teams to exceed the leader's own capabilities.   Poor leaders surround themselves with underperformering teams which support the leader's need to feel superior.   This leads to the notion that "Grade 'A' leaders hire grade 'A' teams and grade 'B' leaders hire grade 'C' teams".

Group IQ is a great concept.  I'm very proud of the way IS teams approach tricky problems, resource allocation decisions, and out of the blue compliance requirements that are unstaffed, unbudgeted, and "must do".

The best metric that teams are high functioning is watching their response to a crisis.   Is there infighting?  Is there jockeying for leadership when responding to the event?  Does one person dominate the conversation?

I've watched time after time when teams of IS professionals come together, each assuming a mutually supportive role.   Depending on the issue, the person with the most experience on the team runs the activity.   Everyone contributes their ideas and is respected for whatever they say - right or wrong.   If there are emotions, the team rallies to support the good ones and diffuse the bad ones.   No one is blamed for human error - it's used to improve processes in the future.

My experience with highly functional groups is that people have to be hired for their emotional quotient (EQ) as well as their intelligence quotient (IQ).   The only thing you can do wrong during a team activity is to impede the work of others.   Criticism of ideas is encouraged, criticism of people is not.

The only way we could survive 2010, which was a year that tested both patience and stamina, was relying on Group IQ to shrug off the naysayers, maintain course and direction, and keep an upbeat attitude through it all.

Thanks to all the IS teams who work with me - you have a great Group IQ!
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