Work skills for the future: Social Sensitivity

One of the fascinating paradoxes of small group performance is that the IQ scores of individuals in the group is not a good predictor of group success. What is?
Anita Wooley of Carnegie Mellon University and her colleagues researched the question by dividing 600 test subjects into groups of 2 to 6, and had them attempt various problem-solving tasks. Afterward the interviewed the participants, and measured factors possibly relevant to performance, like  individual intelligence and personality, and group cohesion and motivation. The only factors that rose to the top were social sensitivity, gender (women are more socially sensitive than men), and balanced participation in conversation.
I find it fascinating that group cohesion matters little, as is individual intelligence, motivation, and happiness. Let’s think about these points.
One of the mantras we hear all the time is that businesses need to have cultures based on group cohesion. This is why people are constantly droning on about cultural fit, and getting and keeping people ‘on the same page’. This research upends that. Group cohesion might make people more comfortable, but it doesn’t correlate with performance. We know from other research that diverse groups working on critical projects are likely to have higher performance than non-diverse groups, but the pressure and tension can be so great to make the experience uncomfortable, despite the outcome.
Motivation has fallen a bit from its place in management theory, but there is still a strong presumption that extrinsic motivation is a powerful inducement to increase performance. Not so, says this research.
The balanced communication finding is very interesting. In high-performing groups there is a lot more sharing going on in meetings, which likely uncovers more diverse opinions and insights, and surfaces objections and concerns as early as possible. The participants are more likely to feel that they are being heard, and more likely to understand what the viewpoints of all the members of the group are.
This last point is linked to the notion of ‘theory of mind’, which is the capacity of socially sensitive (or ‘socially intelligent’) people to comprehend the feelings and perceptions of others. Bob Johanson, formerly of the Institute for the Future, writes about quiet transparency as a key skill for the future, and it basically is the complement of social sensitivity, because quiet transparency is about being open and authentic, which makes it easier for others to ‘read’ you.
Social sensitivity is not purely genetic: its both inherited predisposition and learned behavior. And, as Woolley’s research shows, this is where individuals and businesses should be putting their efforts. It would be interesting to see if this information has actually reached the world of business, yet.
 

Be passionate about work: No job change required

We often think being passionate about work involves finding the right activities to suit our strengths and interests, but what if career passion was as much about how you work as what you do? Then you might not need to change jobs to get it.

Are Attitudes to Web Workers Changing in Asia?

When it comes to remote work, is the point cost savings or employee motivation? Maybe it depends on the continent, suggests a ZDNet Asia article. It notes that while telecommuting is frequently used for cost saving in the U.S., in Asia it’s used for employee morale.

6 Tips for Keeping Your Remote Team Motivated & Happy

In last week’s post, I wrote about what it takes to become a virtual CEO, after speaking with Chris Ducker of Virtual Business Lifestyle. During our conversation, Ducker also shared his tips for keeping a virtual team happy and motivated.

In 2011, Stop Putting Off Your Dreams

Some of us make attempts to accomplish a few life and business goals. But how many people do you know who put everything on the line to pursue their deepest, most life-changing dreams? How many don’t wait until “someday” to go after the things they want?

Use Downtime Projects to Recharge, Try New Work Habits

Many web workers are taking advantage of the holiday break to focus on personal projects that really spark their passions. Here are a few ideas to help you stay focused and motivated on personal projects, while enjoying the holidays at the same time.

Ambition: Are You Hungry?

ambition, n.: an earnest desire for some type of achievement and the willingness to strive for its attainment

Thinking about ambition reminds me of Steve Jobs’ 2005 commencement address at Stanford. The words “stay hungry” have followed me ever since reading them.

The Moving To-Do List

At the end of the day, we look at our to-do list list, but there’s one item that didn’t get completed, so we move it to tomorrow’s list, but tomorrow, the same thing happens, and it keeps happening. I call these items a “moving to-do list”

Entrepreneurship: How Sweet It Is

The entrepreneurial spirit is infectious. I caught the bug quite a while ago, but this morning, the chronic (although at times dormant) symptoms reared their heads again, so I thought I’d share the inspiration and hopefully stir that spirit in you, too.

Become Comfortable with the Unknown

My friend Betsy Talbot and her husband Warren are forging their own path and making their own way. Two years ago, they decided that they wanted to travel the world. Life was too short, they decided, to wait for that dream.