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All Places > The Communication COMMunity > Blog > Authors Daniela Velez

            Last week I started reading Smarter, Faster, Better by Charles Duhigg on my morning commute in an attempt to be more productive. In his book, Duhigg systematically dissects the habits of highly successful individuals and their habits, but what really caught my attention was his chapter on successful teams. In the chapter, Duhigg examines a study on team building conducted by a group of psychologists from MIT and Carnegie Mellon that took place back in 2008.  Researchers had recruited around 700 individuals and divided them into 152 teams to complete tasks that required varying levels of collaboration. The teams took part in activities that ranged from maximizing time grocery shopping together to arriving at conclusions for fabricated disciplinary cases. Each task varied in difficulty and required teams to spend a significant amount of time together. From your own experience, what are some elements you think has an impact on a team’s success? What do you think the researchers discovered?

 

Did the teams with the smartest individuals succeed more often?

Were the winning teams more decisive or aggressive compared to their counterparts?

Would they establish tasks and distribute work evenly?

Did the interactions between team members appear more casual or strict?

Did they consist of individuals that had similar socioeconomic backgrounds?

 

            The answer is, none of the above. The most successful teams didn’t have any traits that the researchers would’ve deemed obvious, like IQ levels or social dynamics (some great teams were loud and chaotic; others were calm and soft spoken). After taking a closer look at each team’s interactions the researchers came to an unexpected conclusion. Individual intelligence did not correlate to the performance of the team. Neither did logistics like work distribution or approaches to the tasks.

   The most successful teams managed to create environments that raised the collective intelligence of everyone in the group. Adversely, the least successful teams created norms that decreased the collective intelligence and productivity of the group. When it came down to it, there were two traits that researchers linked to an increase in collective intelligence.

 

 

 

  1.  Each member spoke about the same amount. On reviewing videos of team interactions, researchers found that all of the members in successful teams spoke in roughly the same proportion. The specifics of how they were talking didn’t matter. Some groups were yelling over each other throughout the task, while others were patient and took turns. The researchers called this trait “equality in distribution of conversational turn-taking.”
  2. The greatest teams tested as having a high social sensitivity. Before forming teams, researchers tested the social sensitivity of each candidate with an empathy test. This involved showing candidates photos of people’s eyes and asking them to identify what they were feeling. Men on average guess correctly 52% of the time. Women on average guess correctly 61% of the time. Team members with high social sensitivity seemed to know when someone felt left out or had something to say. They spent more time asking each other questions. The most successful teams also contained a higher proportion of women.

 

 

If you’d like to test your social sensitivity, click here to take a quick quiz!

When I was six years old, I caught a Pikachu while playing Pokémon Red on my first Gameboy. For me, it was a pretty momentous event, but who did I share the experience with?

  • A few playground friends who shrugged me off to play double-dutch.
  • My parents who told me to go play with the other kids.
  • And finally, my older brother who took my Gameboy away to prove to me he could raise a Pikachu better than I could.

Unless I was showing off my Pokédex or card collection, my young gaming experiences were mostly solitary, but today, gaming is no longer restricted to the individual. All major gaming consoles, like Xbox or PlayStation, come with their own internet-based social media access, allowing player to connect, play with, and share achievements with a vast expanse of old and new friends. Players can feel like they’re being social without actually being around anyone, which is an improvement from past gaming technology, but still doesn’t help players sharpen their interpersonal skills in the way real-life interactions would.

 

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Pokémon Go has taken gaming to the next step. When asked about this new craze, Media & Culture author Christopher Martin said:

 

"This game bridges the gap between gaming and augmented reality. It literally takes the game everywhere, out into the community, out into the world."

 

It would be difficult to find a Pokémon Go player who disagrees. Unlike most gaming platforms (and unlike many social media networks), Pokémon Go encourages communication in the real, physical world, rather than in front of a console. Pokémon Go players often get together in search of a Pikachu or a Charmander; there are even Facebook groups for particular geographic regions(Pokémon Go in the Hudson Valley, for example), which plan walks and meetups for different Pokémon Go Teams (Valor, Mystic, and Instinct).  When I joined, there were about fifty members from my hometown. Now there are almost 1,000. While I am strategizing with members on how to take over different “gyms” nearby, I’m also connecting with people from my high school that I’ve *gasp* never spoken to before.

 

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Like all forms of communication, there is a dark side to Pokémon Go. People are walking into traffic and crashing their cars while playing, while some criminals are even using lure modules as bait for robberies.

Rather than focus on the negative conflicts arising from these events, I’d like to stay a little more upbeat about the future of gaming and augmented reality, and how these can improve the ways we communicate. A shared love of Pokémon Go   is transcending social norms. People of all ages, ethnic groups, and social backgrounds can be seen huddling at Pokéstops, lure modules, and areas of high activity. Real world gaming is making it easier for people to connect with each other without most of the anxieties they may usually face. It’s an unspoken invitation to communicate.

“Hey, there’s a Legendary around here!”

“What’d you catch?”

“There’s a Pokémon here I couldn’t get! Can you give me some advice?”

“Let’s meet up and get our gym back.”