A Culture of Innovation: Are you relying on individual or collective intelligence?

Does your IQ Predict Innovation?

Many believe that recruiting top talent guarantees success, but is this truly the case? Does the greatest innovative thinking come from individual contributors, or is it the ability of the team to work collectively?

Anita Woolley, Associate Dean of Research and Professor of Organizational Behavior at Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business, argues that individual intelligence does not correlate with a team’s ability to creatively complete tasks. So, if individual IQ doesn’t predict innovation, then what does? The answer is collective intelligence.

Collective Intelligence

Collective intelligence is characterized by how well members of a group work together across a wide range of tasks. What’s the greatest predictor of collective intelligence? It is linked to the average emotional intelligence of group members, demonstration of conversational turn-taking rather than interrupting, and the proportion of females in the group. [1]

That’s according to Anita Woolley’s paper, “Evidence for a Collective Intelligence Factor in the Performance of Human Groups,” where nearly 700 individuals were evaluated in teams of 2-5 on a variety of performance tasks. The emotional intelligence or social sensitivity of the participant was assessed by the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test or REM-T. Yes, this is a real test. It involves recognizing emotions from a series of 36 photos. Interested in taking this test yourself? You can find it for free here.

Brainstorming Performance

Groups can outperform the sum of their parts via cross-stimulation, where an idea in one member sparks new ideas in others. In the publication, “Translating Member Ability Into Group Brainstorming Performance: The Role of Collective Intelligence,” they state:

“[…] to generate creative responses to novel problems, groups aim to capitalize on their available creative talent to produce creative output [references]. However, group creativity research has identified that many groups are ineffective at generating a large number of creative ideas, often performing even worse than their individual members working independently [references].” [2]

What this means is that a group of talented individuals does not guarantee highly innovative ideas. The right mindset and setting are necessary for cross-stimulation to occur.

Silence the Inner Critic

How can you harness your current team to think innovatively and take risks? This is where psychological safety and company culture comes into play. In ideation workshops, a key principle is, “The only bad idea is the one not expressed.” 

When participants are fearful of judgment they will protect themselves by not voicing their idea. Sometimes the judgment comes from their own inner critic rather than the rest of the team. The inner critic might say:

💡“No one will like my idea.”
💡“My idea isn’t impressive enough.”
💡“It’s too silly to share.”
💡“Everyone else seems to have better ideas than me.”

Recognize any of these thoughts? That’s the inner critic sabotaging your ability to stay open, curious, and present. Judgment stifles creativity. 

Ideation Guidelines

The next time you gather for a brainstorm, try setting some ground rules for your team’s ideation session:

  1. Encourage Divergent Thinking: During idea generation, the only bad idea is the one not expressed.
  2. Postpone Criticism: Avoid evaluating ideas during brainstorming. Save that for later.
  3. State Ideas Simply: Don’t try to sell or defend your ideas – just share them.
  4. Build on Ideas: Use phrases like “Yes, AND…” to expand on others’ ideas.

As a leader, be mindful of how you offer praise. Praising only certain types of ideas or select individuals can hinder the team’s ability to ideate. Your job is to make sure everyone is following the guidelines above.

Psychological Safety at Work

Creating a sense of safety at work through struggle might seem counterintuitive. Avoiding conflict and difficult conversations or not providing real feedback to your team may keep everyone feeling comfortable, but comfort is not the same as safety. When leaders are overly focused on making everyone feel comfortable they create a culture of toxic positivity. 

Downsides to constant comfort include:

  • Lack of difficult conversations or productive struggle.
  • Settling for groupthink rather than innovation.
  • Individuals not being challenged to grow.

Courageous leadership involves holding space for discomfort and practicing radical candor. Moreover, creating safety means being transparent and kind in difficult conversations. Additionally, it encourages open expression of concerns and builds trust to reduce fear of judgment. In this way, leaders can create a culture that captures the collective intelligence of their team and fosters innovation.

If you’d like to learn more about microdosing psychedelics in corporate ideation sessions or would like to book a facilitated ideation workshop, schedule a complimentary call with Victoria.


  1. Woolley et al., 2010. Evidence for a Collective Intelligence Factor in the Performance of Human Groups. Science, 330(6004), 686–688. DOI10.1126/science.1193147
  2. Ostrowsk et al., 2022. Translating Member Ability Into Group Brainstorming Performance: The Role of Collective Intelligence. Small Group Research, 53(1), 3–40. https://doi.org/10.1177/10464964211060348
  3. https://psytests.org/arc/rmeten.html

Victoria Lauren

Victoria is a Psychedelic Leadership Coach with 15 years in corporate roles that spanned sectors from energy to medical technology, including startups and Fortune 100 companies. She harnesses her expertise to guide conscious leaders across industries including tech, drug development, psychiatry, digital health, and patient care.

Victoria’s unique professional path was enriched by growing up between Alaska and Indonesia, an adventurous five-year sailing expedition to Ecuador in a 40-foot sailboat, and a year of van-life in the Pacific Northwest. She lives in Bend, Oregon with her husband, doggo and two kitties.

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