Groups are smarter with women (no duh!)

FinalMeetingImageGender keeps coming up in my work a lot lately, both as a theme for meetings and work, but also in my lived experience. I have a colleague who has taken over one of my clients because we both feel the client will take on the coaching and feedback better from another man than from me. In a conversation about social capital related investments, another colleague says his rule of thumb is to ad 10% to women they are investing in over the equal-on-paper men just because he knows it pays off. Women’s role in agriculture is finally being recognized in the international development world. And in many cases, it is the development of good data to support these hunches that is finally helping us get traction in USING what we know about gender. So this article comes as no surprise. Don’t stop at the first quote… read to the second one!

“If you want to create a team that works intelligently, put more women on it than men. According to studies conducted by , Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management the founding director of the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence…“More women was correlated with more intelligence,” he says.”

Here are the three factors that emerged from the research:

  • The average social perceptiveness of the group members.
  • The degree to which members participated equally in the discussion.
  • The percentage of women in the group was a predictor of the group’s intelligence.

OK, so now everyone jumps up and down and says, yeah, but this is different online when there is more ease of contribution and no need for eye contact. Yeah. Right.

“Interestingly, the findings hold up in electronic collaboration among a group as well as they do in verbal collaboration. In some tests, the groups came together online and could only communicate by text chat. “It turned out that the average social perceptiveness of group members was equally applied, even when they can’t see each other’s eyes at all,” Malone says. He believes this means that a high score in the ‘reading the mind in the eyes’ test must be correlated with broader range of social skills and social intelligence.”

Online facilitators, TAKE NOTE!
via Groups are smarter with women, MIT research shows | Profit Minded – Yahoo Small Business Advisor.

Zoom and Re-Zoom for Facilitators

Last month I finally got a chance to use a facilitation activity called Zoom which I found on the Wilderdom’s Game resource page — a great resource!  I deeply appreciate that they put the “copyleft” designation on all their resources. THANKS!  As I learned and read facilitation ideas from other sites, I realized I should share some of my experiences as well. Here is the description from Wilderdom’s resource page (which also includes all instructions – I’ve attached a pdf copy at the bottom for taking to an event, but please DO visit their page!):

This game is based on the intriguing, wordless, picture books “Zoom” and “Re-Zoom” by Istvan Banyai which consist of 30 sequential “pictures within pictures”.  The Zoom narrative moves from a rooster to a ship to a city street to a desert island and outer space.  Zoom has been published in 18 countries. The Re-Zoom narrative moves from an Egyptian hieroglyphic to a film set to an elephant ride to a billboard to a train.

I’ve done similar activities, but I love the multicultural perspective of Istvan Banayi’s books, so now I’ve stocked up on multiple copies of both ZOOM and RE-ZOOM, and have on my to do list to break them down and put into protective pages. I left the last set with my colleagues at ICRISAT in Hyderabad. I am also keeping my eye out for used copies, because I like the idea of leaving the book pages behind for groups to use with OTHER groups they work with. Viral facilitation and collaboration!

We did the exercise with a large group of social scientists who work in different parts of the world. Most of their work is done in smaller teams, but there was a real need to connect as a whole team as well. It was very interesting to observe the exercise. First we started with the version where you can’t show your card to anyone else. The group didn’t make much progress finding their order. Imagine if we had tried the “no talking” version! With the “no show” round, I asked if they were ready to show and see if they got it. There were some totally confident and others totally sure they did not have it. So I asked them to put themselves in order (again without showing the cards) and then we’d check.  Uh uh, not even close.

Then they used visual clues to reorder the series. This is where a few individuals really went to work and the rest of the group stood back. It was an interesting shift in agency. When there was a higher degree of “not knowing,” more of the team participated in working the solution.

When we debriefed, I did notice a shyness to share some of the observations people gave me individually as the power dynamics in the group made some of these things harder to say. I try not to be the voice for others in the room, so I had to represent my observations as just that — my observations. But I need to think more critically how to handle this during the debrief.

Here are a few angles on our play together…



Resources from Wilderdom, copyleft – please share with attribution out of kindness!