Working with successful teams in different sports, ‘team smarts’ or ‘team maturity’ is a recurring theme that emerges in discussions with elite coaches. This refers to knowing how and when to manage a game though the different phases of a game.
This can take a variety of forms. For example, football coaches we’ve worked with want their teams to know when and how to slow down the tempo of matches or to speed up tempo to increase pressure on their opponents. In rugby, coaches often talk of ‘cynical fouls’, playing on the fringes of the law and slowing down the opposing team’s access to the ball to reduce their scoring opportunities.
In each of our sporting engagements, coaches have looked for some quantifiable measurement of how mature their teams are, of how smart their teams are collectively. This could be thought of as ‘Team IQ’.
This approach is not unique to sport. This team intelligence factor is equally important in the business environment.
What is Team IQ?
Science has evolved reliable and standardised psychometric approaches to measure individual intelligence. Over the last 100 years there has been consistent effort to measure individual intelligence. However, there has not been the same focus on measuring team or group intelligence.
Whilst one might assume that the more people in a group with high IQ and good qualifications then the greater the combined intelligence, research consistently disproves this theory. In 2016 the New York Times published an article discussing research into business teams at Google. This showed that groups of individuals with high IQs tended to underperform and were characterised by infighting, anxiety and low team cohesion.
This is supported by a 2008 MIT study which examined team IQ and found that individual IQ was not the core driver of a group’s IQ. In the study, 699 people were separated into teams and given a range of tasks or projects, similar to an academic version of The Apprentice without the cameras and Alan Sugar! The tests were designed to represent cooperation and measure the collective capability of the group.
And what was the quality that defined good groups versus those that performed poorly?
It was how the members of the group treated each other. The research indicated that good team-based habits raised the collective intelligence of the group whereas poor behaviours reduced intelligence regardless of individual IQ levels.
However, this conclusion seemed incomplete as each group didn’t necessarily have the same set of behaviours or even the same leadership styles. Whilst some had a leader, others shared leadership roles. Also, some distributed work evenly in comparison with others that allocated work according to individual skillsets.
Further analysis confirmed two consistent behaviours in successful groups;
1. Each member took turns to speak and on most tasks everyone an equal say in terms of time contribution.
2. The most effective groups had high sensitivity to each other and developed good communication practices. They didn’t talk over each other, they asked question and listened to the answers; every person had an opportunity to be heard.
The researchers termed these combined qualities ‘Psychological Safety’.
Can Psychological Safety be measured?
There is significant research supporting the relationship between Psychological Safety and high performance in an organisation.
MyPeople has been researching this subject in sporting teams for over 15 years and has developed reliable methodologies to enable organisations to measure Psychological Safety and understand how it can drive improved performance. In the sporting world, Saracens measure psychological safety in their teams and feel it is a major contributor in enabling them to become one of English Rugby’s most successful teams over the last decade.
Psychological Safety is critical to driving improved performance in both the sporting and commercial environments. Good communications and sensitivity to the needs of others are essential qualities that are proven to be critical factors in maximising team or group IQ, performance and growth.
So the next time you watch your favourite sports team, watch out for signs of good communication and how many people in that team are communicating at any point. Are they showing good communication habits such as listening, not talking over each other and freely communicating their view?
To find out more about how your teams score on psychological safety, please visit our website or contact us: www.mypeoplegroup.com