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The Most Intelligent Groups Aren’t Just a Bunch of Smart People

It’s becoming increasingly important for businesses to think about themselves not just in terms of their productivity and efficiency, but also their intelligence. But how do you measure an organization’s intelligence? And with so many groups working remotely, can you measure an online group’s intelligence? It turns out that you can measure and predict group intelligence, and that the same factors affect both face-to-face and online groups.

In a prior study, my colleagues and I took the same statistics techniques used to measure individual intelligence and applied them to measure the intelligence of groups. As far as we know, nobody had ever before asked if groups had an “intelligence factor,” just as individuals do.

We found that there is indeed a single statistical factor for group intelligence that predicts how well the group will perform on a wide variety of tasks. We called this factor “collective intelligence,” and it is only moderately correlated with the average individual intelligence of people in the group. In other words, having a bunch of smart people in the group doesn’t necessarily lead to a smart group. Instead, we found three other factors that predict collective intelligence.

The first was average ...

The Health Benefits of Going Outside

As people spend more time indoors, ecotherapy has emerged as a way to help rebuild our relationships with nature—and improve mental and physical health. James Hamblin visits San Francisco to learn more.

(Top image via Vivian Fung/

5 Tips to Boost Your Employee Survey Ranking

It’s official: the morale of the federal workforce is the worst it’s been since they first started measuring.  Each year, the Partnership for Public Service conducts the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey across all agencies and departments. The FEVS can be one of the single greatest pain points for federal leaders. Some are resigned to thinking that much of the government is just doomed to have low morale—but that doesn’t have to be the case. And now it looks like the Office of Management and Budget is going to incorporate those measures in senior executives’ performance evaluations. Figuring out how to engage your employees and boost your scores is more important than ever. There are a variety of things leaders can do to boost morale (and their FEVS ranking) if they are willing.

 1. Monitor Progress Constantly

The FEVS is conducted once a year so progress is made slowly over time. Make sure you are constantly tracking progress with regard to morale and employee engagement. Moreover, to show that you are taking this seriously, make the progress (or lack thereof) public knowledge across your organization. Even if things are not progressing as quickly as desired, you will ...

The Complete Guide to Sitting at Your Desk

By now, you’re probably sick of hearing about standing desks, with their promises of staving off obesity, diabetes, even death. (The craze is evident here at Quartz’s New York office, where a new standing desk pops up nearly every week.)

But standing all day is not for everyone. For those who are more productive with their behind planted on a comfy seat, take heart. There are ways to stay healthy and happy without ditching your swivel chair.

Quartz talked to Kevin Costello, president of United States Ergonomics, a company that consults on ergonomics in workplaces, and he offered some tips on how to optimize your sitting desk at work.

Move around

Desk work can take a toll on your body, and it’s the sitting still that causes the problem. “Most people start the day OK, but start to notice discomfort late in the day,” says Costello. “This is typically the result of static postures and the onset of muscle fatigue.”

One study found that taking a five-minute walk every hour can be just as effective as standing all day. There are apps that can remind you to take a break and stretch, or you can set an ...

You Really Can Work Longer Hours Without Killing Your Productivity

So you think you’ve got it bad?

According to a paper by Stanford economics professor John Pencavel, which The Economic Journal published online, back in World War I, the workweek stretched anywhere from 60 to 100 hours, to meet the demand for war-related materials. (Here is a pdf of a longer version of the report published earlier this year, via The Economist)

Even in 1916, the British government found the work hours excessive. According to a report that Pencavel dug up from the British Health of Munition Workers Committee, tasked with figuring out how to increase efficiency in munitions plants, the committee recommended making some changes. It proposed giving a rest day on Sundays, and reducing work hours to 65 to 67 a week for men and boys, and to 60 hours a week for girls and women (who by the end of the war accounted for 77.6 percent of ammunition and explosives industry employees).

The committee claimed that total output would be unchanged, even with shortened hours. Pencavel was curious to test that hypothesis, applying statistical analysis techniques to the data the committee had gathered for their report. Here’s what he found:

Below 49 weekly hours ...