We talk a lot about the “collective” here. In fact, we named ourselves after it. And it’s because we firmly believe that all of us are better than one of us. That being said, I think many of us have had experiences where we witnessed the opposite happening – more of us was actually worse than one of us. Why does that happen? That question has led me to understand the importance of five primary dimensions that allow collective intelligence to successfully emerge.
- Technology. These are the tools we use to store and share knowledge. Wikis, social nets, task management systems, are good examples. When people discuss collective intelligence, they are often talking about tools at this level. But tools alone won’t get it done.
- Rituals. These are the interactions between team members that allow knowledge to flow and transfer. Things like after-action reviews (“post-mortems”) and Knowledge Cafes are examples. Said another way, this is the “people working with people” aspect that allows knowledge to flow freely…the more intentional organizations are to design rituals around collective intelligence, the higher the likelihood of consistent knowledge flow.
- Structure. Hierarchical vs. flatter & more agile structures. Rigid hierarchies are a collectdive intelligence killer – by definition as knowledge is stored in layers and often held ransom by individuals and departments. Alternatively, more fluid, flat and agile structures allow intelligence to spread from the “service frontier” (where the action is) and across the organization.
- Culture. Many say “culture eats strategy for lunch”. I’d extend that to say “culture eats tools and rituals for lunch”. That’s because there’s only so much you can formalize in tools within a culture that isn’t open to learning and/or sharing. Conversely, a positive culture allows knowledge to spread free and fast and may even be codified into formal policy to ensure consistent success.
- Philosophy. At the most fundamental level, it’s the value set and belief system that drives culture and everything else toward or away from successful collective intelligence. If, as an organization, you believe that you’re genuinely “better together” and that knowledge is what economists call a non-rival asset (something you can give to someone else and still keep yours), you’re setting yourself up for success and all the tools, rituals, structure and cultural aspects flowing out of it will be gravy.
Think about your own organization through the lens of these five dimensions and see how you score. Where are you strong? Where can you improve?
Want to learn more about collective intelligence? Listen to our podcast on the topic.