The most ambitious goals require the smartest people, and as the corporate world gets increasingly competitive, businesses need the best teams to succeed. So how do you bring together the brightest minds to achieve those goals? The answer used to lie in the business districts of large cities, but all that is about to change. Soon, the smartest teams will be global.
Intelligence relies on interconnectivity
To tell you why global teams are smarter, we need to talk about neuroscience. In our latest report on the Globalization of Teams, author and journalist Laurence H Knight tells us that “the main determinants of a species’ intelligence are how many neurons it has in its cerebral cortex and how well wired they are.” In other words, “the bigger and more interconnected the neural network, the smarter the animal.”
This science translates to how well teams function too. The more we network our brains through language and collaboration, the better our collective intelligence, the smarter we become, and the easier it is to smash targets and build a world-class business.
Smart teams used to work in big city “brain hubs”
Traditionally, this networking took place in big cities like London, Shanghai, and New York; cities that had three main advantages: a large population able to share ideas and insights, a denser labor market that attracts an abundance of skills, and enough diversity to enable specialization within different but complementary professions and industries. We call these cities “brain hubs.”
Brain hubs used to be where the most successful businesses built the most successful teams. Talent acquisition was centered around capital cities and other large metropolitan areas, so that’s where top talent congregated. It was seemingly a virtuous circle that benefited both businesses and the people who worked for them.
But the bubble has been at the point of bursting for a while. Brain hubs have been getting increasingly expensive, congested, and polluted. And they’re becoming unsustainable for businesses and workers as a result.
In March 2020, the pandemic took a pin to that bubble. As white-collar workers were ushered out of office buildings and into their own homes, the reliance on the physical brain hub weakened. Remote work took off, and even after the relaxation of restrictions, it doesn’t show signs of stopping. As employees realized that they could perform their roles just as well at home, businesses discovered that to retain top talent, they needed to offer more flexibility. And so the exodus from these former brain hubs began.
Global teams have even more potential
Now we find ourselves on the cusp of a new frontier of work and, consequently, the way we build teams. The internet has been networking the world’s brains since the 1990s, but only now, with the acknowledgment that central offices aren’t the be-all and end-all of high-quality work, are global teams (and a “global brain”) primed to thrive.
After all, if you can hire someone remotely in a different city, you can hire remotely in a different country altogether, vastly broadening and diversifying your talent pool and the minds you can network together. As a result, this new generation of teams will be able to innovate faster, think in new, creative ways to avoid groupthink, and carry out highly specialized tasks more efficiently. This, in turn, will help businesses pull ahead of the competition, boost profitability, and solve some of the world’s greatest challenges.
Take the research community as an example. “Over the past decade, remote virtual research teams have begun outperforming in-person teams in making breakthrough discoveries,” says Laurence. “Technologies like videoconferencing have enabled inter-university research teams to publish measurably more groundbreaking research papers since 2010 than teams co-located on the same campus.”
Global teams are already proving themselves to be better, smarter, and more accomplished. So business leaders need to take note. Because if they don’t, they risk being left behind.
Discover more about the future of work and the Globalization of Teams in our report.