Wednesday, December 22, 2010

What it Takes to Make A High-Performance Event Team

You can’t begin early too early and you can’t communicate too much,” admonished a savvy collaborator at a post-event debriefing. Your humble blogger had taken some lumps after running what he’d thought had been a good team effort. But the maxim to became a motto.

Event production is a test of group intelligence. Events of any size take a team to execute. And the effectiveness of the team is not simply a function of the individual intelligence of people on the team.

Collective intelligence can be measured and reliably associated with group performance according to a study recently covered in the Boson Globe. Collective intelligence “is not strongly correlated with the average or maximum individual intelligence of group members but is correlated with the average social sensitivity of group members, the equality in distribution of conversational turn-taking, and the proportion of females in the group,” according to the abstract of the study which was published in Science. The female factor fell away when controlled for social sensitivity.

Teams of individually intelligent players can be collectively weak-minded. When unexpected problems test the typical event team of specialists, too often the response is a collective deer-in-the-headlights standstill. In these situations somebody needs to step forward and focus the group on generating a solution.

Effective problem response may be counter intuitive. The study apparently found that “overbearing leaders” tended to reduce group intelligence. This is evident on event teams that hesitate to act on urgent problems while waiting for the leadership to "call the shots." But the coverage of the study did not mention socially sensitive leadership as a catalyst for problem solving.

The leadership factor in collective intelligence will emerge in further study, if your humble blogger’s observations of event teams are correct. A socially sensitive leader can raise the collective intelligence of the group simply by being part of the group and by example, influencing others.  But  leadership is also critical in guiding group processes to a conclusion.  A formal leader does not have to be the one leading the show, but leadership is a key on any event team, especially when the team faces a new or unexpected problem.

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