Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Collective Intelligence

Harness the Collective Intelligence.

 It’s evident that large businesses are increasingly using crowd-sourcing to brainstorm new ideas and solve thorny business problems in their business practices. Collective intelligence is an emerging business SMARTNESS to overcome business challenges and stretch out company goals.

Crowd-sourcing is an attitude: New generation of social business empowered by digital technologies such as social platform, collaboration tools and analytics will extend organization’s physical boundary, enhance employees’ participation and engage customers’ feedback, crowd-sourcing becomes the new attitude and reality, it also stimulates creative side of our brain and agility of our business to find better solutions for either old issues or the emerging problems, and use collective intelligence to overcome business challenges.  

Collective wisdom improves both quantity and quality of idea generation. In the innovation studies, a group of researchers compared classic in-person, team brainstorming ('team structure") with a distributed idea generation model that had a team component ("hybrid structure"), via a field experiment. The basis of their analysis is that companies want the *best* ideas, and to get those they need to maximize the elements of extreme value theory,  they found the distributed idea generation approach ("hybrid structure") generated both the highest quality ideas and a higher average quality overall, versus team brainstorming. 
1). The sheer volume of ideas generated
2). Average quality of all ideas generated
3). The level of variance in the quality of generated ideas 

Crowd-sourcing brings cognitive minds and  pool of expertise. Like anything else, the effectiveness of an activity like crowd-sourcing and brainstorming will depend on what it’s being used for. The real value in these types of ‘group-based activities’, when done properly, is that it enables you to bring a diverse population together and a collective pool of all the expertise at the discussion table. This is not something that can be done individually; hence, it’s valued. The real problem with crowd-sourcing is that large group interactions often lack any underlining infrastructure or methodology. As a result, the loudest voice tends to dominate, hierarchical constraints limit freedom of speech, people lack alignment around issues, all insights aren’t being harnessed to their full potential, and the list goes on…

Collective wisdom enables problem-solving. It is true that some great ideas do come from brainstorming individually. Interaction with others, being able to build on each other's ideas can yield some amazing result as well. As an innovation manager, one should have a good idea when to deploy different methods and who should be involved. More often you would see, the amazing creativity "seeds" usually come from individuals and problem-solving more from groups. Not to say that creative endeavors can't happen in the groups, they most certainly can. Different cognitive styles react differently within idea generating activities and observing how people interact with one another in a way that protects privacy can provide managers with useful innovation-process-management insights.

Crowd-sourcing techniques: The vast majority of ad hoc brainstorming sessions occur globally everyday now. Business should learn when, where and how each crowd-sourcing technique could be utilized to its full potential. Like so many techniques, brainstorming can deliver great results if it is applied in the right context, and taking into considerations of its limitations. The techniques can be used to monitor and improve the social-psychological environment for creativity.  It is also important to take advantage of methodology that allows large organizations to mobilize a large group of key players, tackle complex business challenges from all the right angles, and co-create the optimal solution.

Collective intelligence is ultimate smartness of business. The digital businesses with collective intelligence are not just the sum of functional pieces anymore, they do have the capability to take advantage of collective wisdom, analyze and synthesize all sort of information from within and even outside of the business boundary, and come out creative ideas or optimal business solutions with speed.


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