Some recent research suggests groups working remotely can be just as effective as groups working in-person. So what does influence a group’s ability to work effectively together on a range of tasks? The research finds that how the work is done and who is doing it both appear to be strong predictors of collective intelligence in a group.

For instance, the largest predictor of collective intelligence is a group’s collaboration process. More specifically, two aspects of how groups coordinate their efforts are important: first, that they figure out which member is the best at different tasks and have that person take the lead on it; and, second, that members coordinate their efforts so that they cover all of the different tasks and don’t leave things unfinished. Our analyses show that coordinating members’ skills and covering all of the tasks are just as important for remote teams as they are for face-to-face teams, and collectively intelligent teams are able to coordinate in these ways regardless of where they are working.

In addition, we observed that who is doing the work has a significant influence on a group’s collective intelligence — not only whether they had skills relevant to the tasks, but also their social skills, especially their social perceptiveness. Groups whose members are more socially perceptive pick up on all kinds of subtle nonverbal cues, and we observed that they are also able to coordinate more effectively in the ways we have described — even when working remotely.

Remote teams have better tools at their disposal than ever before. But does your organization have the right processes in place? This is the question you should be exploring.

In March I wrote about the impact COVID was going to have on new product introduction (NPI). Google delayed the release of its new Pixel smartphone by several months. The newest iPhone line-up was a month later this year. And last week Ford announced they would be delaying next year’s Bronco launch. So even some of the biggest, most capable companies couldn’t escape the impact of COVID. As I wrote about in March, one of the biggest issues from COVID was the impact travel bans would have on NPI:

Electronics manufacturers in the OEM supply chain would generally prepare for NPIs by traveling several times to visit input suppliers in the lead-up to full-scale production. Each of these trips would last up to a few weeks and would involve all aspects of the NPI process, including design tweaks, incoming component supply, assembly and test process definition, product qualification, reliability assurance, manufacturing yield assessment, and final product fulfillment models – all in preparation to support ramp to volume production requirements.

Corporate travel bans have canceled many of these trips and left engineering teams rushing to develop alternative approaches. Some are turning to U.S. firms to help. Because build schedules are already extremely tight, delays of any kind could impact planned product release dates. In short, the coronavirus outbreak is causing delays that could affect planned NPIs.

Mark Gurman reports on Apple’s Apple Inc. virtual town hall meeting with employees on Thursday:

Dan Riccio, senior vice president of hardware engineering, called remote work a “huge challenge” for device design that is usually done in lab settings. He said travel restrictions in March were particularly tough because that is when engineers typically travel to China to help kick off manufacturing of products launching in the fall.

Apple worked around this, with engineers controlling robots from home and using iPads with augmented-reality software to guide technicians in overseas factories, Riccio said. Staff also worked different hours to communicate better with staff already stationed in China. The “very best is yet to come,” Riccio added. The company is focused on developing augmented-reality and virtual-reality hardware products for debut in coming years, Bloomberg News has reported.

There’s a lot of talk about companies remaining virtual even in a post-pandemic world, but the manufacturing sector probably isn’t ready for that and the full set of tools needed are probably years away. Companies pivoted, but it exerted a toll on their employees. As Tim Cook noted:

“There’s no replacement for face-to-face collaboration, but we have also learned a great deal about how we can get our work done outside of the office without sacrificing productivity or results,” he told staff, according to people familiar with the comments. “All of these learnings are important. When we’re on the other side of this pandemic, we will preserve everything that is great about Apple while incorporating the best of our transformations this year.”

Earlier this week the Census Bureau released national and state population estimates. Some key take-aways:

  1. U.S. population continues to slow. U.S. Population increased 0.48% between July 1, 2018 and July 1, 2019. This is the slowest growth rates since 1918.
  2. Nature increase (births minus deaths) continue to slow. S. births fell 0.9 percent in 2019, the fourth consecutive year of decline. Deaths increased 0.4 percent in 2019. The natural increase fell below 1 million in 2019 for the first time in decades.
  3. Net international immigration is also declining. Net immigration declined to 595,348 in 2019, the lowest level in a decade. Net international immigration has been declining annually since 2016. China replaced Mexico to become the largest sending country of foreign-born immigrants to the United States as of 2018.


Other interesting details:

  1. 42 states and the District of Columbia had fewer births in 2019 than 2018. Eight states saw increases in births – Washington (612), Utah (293), Nevada (232), Arizona (175), Idaho (166), Montana (66), Vermont (44), and Colorado (30).
  2. Four states had more deaths than births (natural decrease): West Virginia (-4,679), Maine (-2,262), New Hampshire (-121) and Vermont (-53).
  3. The Northeast region saw its population decrease for the first time in decades
  4. The South, the largest of the four regions, saw the largest numeric growth (1,011,015) and percentage growth (0.8%) between 2018 and 2019
  5. Ten states lost population between 2018 and 2019: New York (-76,790; -0.4%), Illinois (-51,250; -0.4%), West Virginia (-12,144; -0.7%), Louisiana (-10,896; -0.2%), Connecticut (-6,233; -0.2%), Mississippi (-4,871; -0.2%), Hawaii (-4,721; -0.3%), New Jersey (-3,835; 0.0%), Alaska (-3,594; -0.5%), and Vermont (-369 ; -0.1%).
  6. Over the last decade, five of the fastest growing states have been in the Mountain states. Utah was the fastest growing state in the country, followed by Colorado (3rd), Nevada (4th), Idaho (6th), and Arizona (7th).

While technological shifts will help shape the future of work, demographic shifts will also define not only what work is, but where to find it. Population growth is slowing at the same time that  domestic migration or internal migration (movement between states) is slowing to record low levels. These are some of the demographic trends playing out as the digital economy rolls forward. These trends will interact in interesting ways in the coming years.