board_table_meeting_groupThis is part two in a series of posts about collective intelligence.   Building lucrative collective intelligence requires tweaking the mixture of talent to achieve the artful goals of success and profitability.  According to conceptual theories developed by the Sloan School of Management at MIT, wisely manipulating collective intelligence involves answering four base questions: what is being done; who is doing it; why are people doing it; and, how are people doing it.

Entrepreneurs create ideas and decide which ideas they will bring into reality.  But, when you get down to it, the collection of your experiences, your studies, chats with friends, and tidbits of news here and there, your own gut feeling – this is the collective that created your ideas that you are now realizing.  Harnessing collective intelligence to increase exploration of opportunities and achieve results is what you have sub-consciously been doing all of your life and what you can consciously do now to increase business agility.

Create and decide, which are you doing. In the cyclical nature of developing a business you are constantly between creation and evaluating.  You produce your ideas and then, on the basis of what worked or not, you start the next iteration of creating and evaluating.  Deciding where you are in that cycle informs how to draw from collective intelligence.  Take open source software for instance.  What makes it useful is that there are so many contributors building their personal software needs into the system.  So, the system is vibrant.  But, moderators ensure that the vibrancy of the software doesn’t confound its utility and make the open source software chaotic.

Multitudes of companies function by going outside of the physical walls into the virtual world when generating new avenues of growth.  InnoCentive is a website where companies can post a problem and elicit innovative solutions.  Likewise, multitudes of companies have opened idea generation horizontally and vertically with colleagues from diverse departments collaborating.  Even evaluation of ideas is given to a loosely connected collective.  For reality TV shows, fan voting provides a hook to bring the audience into the actual making of a program. Still, though this can be tempered by “experts’ votes” such as those surviving on the island.  But, for the overwhelming majority of businesses, the prudent action is to use people with expertise to evaluate collectively-generated solutions.

Knowing if you are in the generating or evaluating stage gives you the physical elements or groups to put together.   What makes the elements stick and transform into operational possibility is communication.  In order to draw upon collective intelligence, you need to put forth the framework for the types of solutions you are seeking in a way that makes people positive about responding and invites diversity of viewpoints.  Next, communication evolves the network of generated ideas.  One idea, well-communicated, can push others’ ideas, making the sum worth more than the parts.  Then communication occurs in a clustered group of decision makers.  Though the decision makers are a smaller group, they are invested in diversity as well. Research into collective intelligence has shown that a group of diverse, independent, reasonably informed people outperform even the best estimate or decision.  Here again communication is the vital key for congealing varying options and accuracy.

Then communication is again the crux that completes the feedback loop between evaluation and creation. According to Eric Bonabeau, a primary researcher in the field collective intelligence, these essential feedback loops are nearly non-existent in most businesses that overtly rely on collective intelligence.

Understanding the building blocks of collective intelligence and when to use them are good design.  How to communicate among them is good implementation.