What Is Collective Intelligence? Collective Intelligence In A Nutshell

Collective intelligence refers to the enhanced capacity that emerges from the collaboration, collective efforts, and competition of multiple individuals. Collective intelligence (CI) emerges when the contributions of teams or groups of people become more than the sum of their individual parts. Indeed, Harvard Business review suggests collective intelligence refers to “the ability of a group to self-organize and to demonstrate a global behavior that demonstrates a greater cognitive ability than that of any individuals who comprise the group.

Understanding collective intelligence

While the concept of collective intelligence has existed for a long time, technological advancements enabling millions of people to share knowledge have redefined what is possible. During the 19th century, it took almost seven decades for the Oxford English Dictionary to source the 400,000 words necessary for its first edition. Today, modern equivalent Wikipedia receives almost two edits per second with 6 million pages created monthly.

CI encompasses many participatory methods such as prediction markets, citizen science, deliberative democracy, open innovation, and crowdsourcing.

Principles of collective intelligence

According to theorists Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams, the group behavior characteristic of collective intelligence is based on four principles:

  1. Openness – in a group context, collective intelligence suggests intellectual property take a back seat to the open and collaborative sharing of ideas. When more people are encouraged to share their ideas, there is a greater depth of scrutiny. In business, leveraging the diverse creative capacities of others facilitates new use cases and allows for the ecology of complementary products to expand.
  2. Peering – this means projects are based on a foundation of equality, where people can champion personal ideas and pursue their own projects without having to seek approval from someone else. These projects are still open for peer review, but collective intelligence gives contributors greater freedom in choosing how they will achieve goals.
  3. Sharing – knowledge is freely shared throughout the group and individuals share new insights with original group members and any new members. Sharing is critical to the fluid exchange and critique of ideas.
  4. Acting globally – with technology allowing people to join increasingly larger networks, collective intelligence transcends borders, countries, markets, and cultures in favor of diversity of input.

Examples of creative intelligence

Aside from the example of Wikipedia and the Oxford English Dictionary, here are some other examples demonstrating the power of collective intelligence:

  • Search engines – companies such as Google perhaps best exemplify modern collective intelligence. Google’s technology indexes the knowledge created by millions of people and then uses this information to serve relevant search results.
  • Smallpox eradication – a World Health Organisation (WHO) campaign to eradicate the disease in Africa and Asia began in 1967. Since smallpox had a mortality rate of 20-40%, the WHO set out to vaccinate as many people as possible. Outbreaks in Nigeria, where there was a shortage of vaccines, were controlled by containing the disease in certain villages. The strategy only worked because health workers on the ground knew what type of exposure could be handled without adequate vaccine supply.
  • Complex problem collaboration – Arizona State University’s Decision Theatre organizes researchers, policymakers, and the business community to better understand and explore solutions to complex societal issues. Here, collective intelligence is based on software-integrated models and big data provided by transdisciplinary partners. Some of Decision Theatre’s recent work addressed complex challenges in health care, energy, water policy, smart cities, trade agreements, and humanitarian operations.

Key takeaways:

  • Collective intelligence refers to the enhanced capacity that emerges from the collaboration, collective efforts, and competition of multiple individuals. Collective intelligence describes many participatory methods such as citizen science, deliberative democracy, and crowdsourcing
  • Collective intelligence is based on four characteristics of group behavior: openness, peering, sharing, and acting globally.
  • Collective intelligence can be seen in the way search companies such as Google utilize the collective knowledge of internet users. Collective intelligence has also played a part in smallpox eradication and is used to tackle many of the world’s most complex problems.

Connected Business Frameworks

The lean methodology is a continuous process of product development to meet customers’ needs. It was in part borrowed by the auto industry and its roots are found in the Toyota Production System, which was heavily influenced by Henry Ford’s assembly line system. The lean methodology is, therefore, an evolution from lean manufacturing, based on continuous improvement.
Jidoka was first used in 1896 by Sakichi Toyoda, who invented a textile loom that would stop automatically when it encountered a defective thread. Jidoka is a Japanese term used in lean manufacturing. The term describes a scenario where machines cease operating without human intervention when a problem or defect is discovered.
Scrumban is a project management framework that is a hybrid of two popular agile methodologies: Scrum and Kanban. Scrumban is a popular approach to helping businesses focus on the right strategic tasks while simultaneously strengthening their processes.
Scrum at Scale (Scrum@Scale) is a framework that Scrum teams use to address complex problems and deliver high-value products. Scrum at Scale was created through a joint venture between the Scrum Alliance and Scrum Inc. The joint venture was overseen by Jeff Sutherland, a co-creator of Scrum and one of the principal authors of the Agile Manifesto.
The Crystal agile framework is a family of agile methodologies that were developed at IBM by Alistair Cockburn in 1991. The Crystal agile framework focuses on people over processes. It empowers project teams to find their own solutions and not be constricted by rigid methodologies.
Agile Portfolio Management (AgilePfM) is a high-level change management framework that ensures that business change strategy remains under continuous review. AgilePfM reviews changes in a business environment and then coordinates similar changes within the business itself.
Agile Modeling (AM) is a methodology for modeling and documenting software-based systems. Agile Modeling is critical to the rapid and continuous delivery of software. It is a collection of values, principles, and practices that guide effective, lightweight software modeling.

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