collectiveintelligencePeople world-wide, at home and in the office, use collective intelligence every day.  Each time you log into the Internet, you are searching for information.  Much of the time you are searching for sites that are geared toward your desired project outcome for example, a site which gives you better information about the product you will buy.  And, you choose sites based on the sites’ ability to communicate with you, a defining feature of collective intelligence.  Indeed, both humans and animals have used collective intelligence throughout evolution.  In a distinctly human example, national leaders use the collective intelligence of their cabinets and counselors to reach decisions.  Animals use collective intelligence to successfully reach the outcome of food, security and offspring for the group.  While collective intelligence of animals has been studied for ages, collective intelligence among humans, specifically regarding organizational behavior and management, is a relatively new field of study business management.

Recent research from the field of collective intelligence in business management has shown the fallacy of connecting collective intelligence to individual intelligence of group members.  The positive correlation between collective intelligence and skills, rather, lies in the social intelligence of group members.

The foremost researcher and writer in the field of collective intelligence and business management is Dr. Thomas Malone, which is not surprising since he heads up the innovative MIT Center for Collective Intelligence, a division of the Sloan School of Management at MIT. In his research he found varying factors which contribute to collective intelligence.  The factors are listed below according to their degree of importance when calculating the potential for successful outcomes using collective intelligence theories.

  • Social perceptiveness – Another way of stating this is the emotional intelligence of group members.  The foundations for social perceptiveness are in empathy and self-awareness which make it easier to predict the effect of your responses on other people.
  • Evenness of conversational turn-taking – Do members of the working group promote listening to all ideas offered by the group?  Do one or two members take power over the group, only allowing a few selected members to have the floor during discussions?
  • Ratio of women in the group – More females in a group tend to demonstrate more social sensitivity than groups with fewer females.

The factors above all represent skills stemming from emotional intelligence, which, unlike cognitive intelligence, can be bolstered through systematic training and coaching.  Some ThinkingIntegral posts which breakdown the concepts of emotional intelligence are:  Emotional Intelligence and Effectiveness,  It’s Harder to be Kind than Clever, Thriving on Social Connectivity, Darwin’s Imbalance and Finding the Creativity Inside, to name a few.

While Google, Wikipedia and the internet itself use collective intelligence, the outcome is not a product but greater access to information.  On the other hand, your business uses collective intelligence to mine information, synthesize it and produce marketable products with real faces and brands, not anonymous information.