I have written several posts about the research that is being done on group collaboration at MIT Media Lab. I attended a dissertation given by Taemie Kim: Enhancing Distributed Collaboration Using Sociometric Feedback.
My first post explored her thesis: measuring communication patterns can improve group performance when feedback on these patterns is provided.
My second post focused on the sociometric badges that were used to measure communication patterns.
My third post described the actual graphical feedback that group members would receive as a result of analyzing the metrics from the communication patterns.
This post dives into the results. The sociometric badges were given to teams. Some teams were co-located and some were geographically distributed. The teams were then given tasks.
One of the tasks focused on a social dilemma that forced each member of the team to choose between maximizing their own self-interest or that of the team. After eight minutes of discussion, they made private decisions. The "eight minutes" were measured using the sociometrics badges. The private decisions measured their cooperation level.
Another task involved information-sharing. Each member was given information that was hidden from the others. Four minutes of sharing would then be followed by the team trying to generate a "question" that was reflective of the totality of shared information (the more information shared, the more accurate the generation of the question). The "four minutes" were measured using the badges, and the proximity of the question to the ideal would measure their ability to share information.
During the information-sharing task, the distributed (non-co-located) groups received biometric feedback in different ways:
The "no feedback" groups did not perform as well as the others. The other three groups increased their speaking times, speech energy, and turn transitions. In fact, the diagram below shows that it is not the feedback itself which improved performance, but the improved communication patterns. Taemie used a mediation model that showed the following:
For those of you that are interested, the theory behind this graph is explained by the Baron & Kenny Mediation model.
In a nutshell, the sociometric feedback improves the communication patterns, which improves the group's ability to share information. Sociometric feedback on its own can actually hurt information sharing (e.g. the teams pay more attention to the feedback than to the sharing of information!).
Hearing the dissertation made me interested in using the devices. I believe that Taemie and team are forming a startup to launch this invention as a way for geographically distributed teams to improve performance. It would be interesting to use the devices in this way.
Regardless, the research is a very cool way of re-stating that age-old adage: share and take turns! It's a critical element