Factors that Allow for (Effective) Collective Intelligence

Factors that Allow for (Effective) Collective Intelligence

We recently had an opportunity to visit with our friends at The Barnabas Group, who is an organization devoted to helping pair up ministry organizations with the knowledge of local leaders. These organizations come to the organization with a need and local business community members brainstorm solutions and volunteer to help on the spot. We were amazed at how the business community quickly ideated innovative solutions to very difficult problems in this kind of forum. It got us thinking…

If creating collective intelligence is so important, what then are the keys to success? What are common barriers?

In another post, we wrote about the five core dimensions to collective intelligence. From our POV, these are the fundamentals that allow collective intelligence to emerge. But it’s more nuanced than that and it’s worth discussing additional factors that are critical to success.

In our experience (and what we witnessed largely via The Barnabas Group event), here’s a list of factors that lead toward (or away if they’re not utilized or are conducted in reverse) successful collective intelligence:

  1. Purpose. Whether a volunteer or a knowledge worker (Peter Drucker would say it’s the same), having a shared purpose is critical.
  2. Problem. Understanding clearly what the problem is increases team alignment and reduces confusion and wasteful effort.
  3. Diversity. Innovation comes from different POVs coming together.
  4. Trainied facilitation. Let’s face it, bringing humans together is difficult. A trained facilitator can help grease the skids.
  5. Embodying a “volunteer” mentality. Volunteers are purpose-driven and feel less anxiety than “employees”. Less anxiety means more creativity (see #8 below).
  6. Ownership. Believing you are responsible for an outcome and not just a cog in the wheel leads to action.
  7. Ability to play from your strengths. Who doesn’t feel better when they have an opportunity to do what they do best? It creates energy instead of zapping it.
  8. Leaders who reduce anxiety. This is different than the “command and control” POV of management. The role of a modern leader is to take anxiety levels down so creativity and innovation can emerge.

What would you add to the list? Share your thoughts in the comments – we’d love to hear from you.

Categories: Communication, Culture, Process, Structure

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