Collective Intelligence

Collective Intelligence

Do you ever get the feeling your company is so wrapped up into process and efficiency that you never have time to actually do your work? This is one of several questions David and Justin tackle in this podcast titled “Collective Intelligence”.

David and Justin begin with the biblical grounding of collective intelligence found in Acts 15 and the Council of Jerusalem. As part of this discussion, special guest Phil Grey is introduced and he speaks about the modern day phenomenon of open source programming and how that is a good example of collective intelligence in action.

We turn a nerdy corner and Justin walks through the different eras of knowledge:

  • For last 10,000 years, our economy has been mostly agrarian in nature – in 1900 it was 60% of all jobs (now it’s 2%). Knowledge was “know how” and process oriented.
  • By 1950, 50% of jobs were manufacturing (now it’s 12%). Knowledge was “know what” and more abstract and skill-based. Mass education was invented.
  • Now 80% of jobs are in service sector and the number of people being paid to “think” vs. “do” is over 50%. A new definition of knowledge was introduced as knowledge that builds upon itself through collective creation.

Staying on the nerd train, Justin continues on talking about how one of our aspirational friends, Peter Drucker, was really ahead of his time when he spoke about a future that would be driven by information – thus coining the phrase “knowledge worker”. Drucker was also a fan of labeling employees as assets instead of liabilities and believed that knowledge work would be created best in networks instead of rigid hierarchies.

David swoops in to discuss what is driving the need for collective intelligence and talks about the increased pace of change and complexity we’re now experiencing. He also goes on to discuss why he thinks organizations continue to struggle with leveraging collective intelligence (hint: it’s because we still structure ourselves as if we were creating widgets in the industrial age).

Our guest Phil saves the show by talking about how he and Justin have used tools to manage software development and essentially build collective intelligence. He goes deep on several modern tools including:

Justin and Phil continue on to discuss the five main dimensions to collective intelligence that leaders are wise to consider:

  • Technology. These are the tools we use to store and share knowledge. Wikis, social nets, task management systems, etc.
  • Rituals. These are the interactions between team members that allow knowledge to flow and transfer. Things like after-action reviews and Knowledge Cafes are examples.
  • Structure – hierarchical vs. flatter & more agile structures.
  • Culture – openness to learning vs. simply training. May be codified into formal policy.
  • Philosophy. Beliefs such as: “We’re better together”, we’re knowledge workers”, “Knowledge is a non-rival asset: you can give some to me and still keep yours”.

Finally, Dave brings us home with the main takeaway that if companies want to be more agile in the marketplace, they need to harness the power of collective intelligence by acting more like an organism and less like a mechanism.

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