Loïc Thomas Profile Picture    Loïc Thomas
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Why collective intelligence matters

Collective intelligence is a property that emerges from the combined efforts of individuals who work together as a group. How effective such collective intelligence is at a company can often depend less on the quality of its individual workers than on how the business itself is structured; in addition to the kind of working culture that the business promotes.

A group co-operating together is often more successful than any talented individual working alone. Businesses and indeed civilisation, advance through sharing ideas and knowledge. Consider the race to discover the nature of the DNA helical structure. Ultimately, it was teamwork that led to success. Though history remembers Crick and Watson, Franklin and the work of many other scientific theories played a crucial role. Scientists share evidence and ideas with each other all the time, and this helps pave the way for progress.

The same principle applies to the organisation of your workforce. Perhaps you are lucky enough to have talented employees with rare skills. But have you unlocked their full potential? The value increases exponentially when such workers share their skills with the rest of the group, reinforcing collective intelligence.

The assumption that effective management is always best structured like a pyramid, from top to bottom, is questionable. Why? The choice not to include workers at the bottom of the pyramid in the decision-making processes for the tasks that you want them to carry out is misguided for several reasons. First and foremost, by directly involving your workforce in the decisions that affect them, you will not only create an inclusive, more democratic working culture. You will also likely increase productivity. This is because by involving workers in the decisions that impact upon their work, you create a culture of shared responsibility. You also boost your employees’ sense of purpose.

We live in a world where people change companies more and more readily. Collective intelligence can also transform your employees’ sense of belonging and working identity. You will find that by adopting this work culture you are likely to create a more loyal workforce. Pure capital rewards motivate some employees, but not all. Whereas if you organise your business and your workers to capitalise on collective intelligence, then the individuals making up the group will better co-operate in order to reach a common, shared goal that they are invested in. You will enhance employee engagement and productivity.

Thus, failure to include the actors themselves in the decision-making processes that determine the goals that they are to work towards can be a costly oversight. Besides, if you promote collective intelligence, you can also pay your employees more as a direct result of your improved collective productivity. Moreover, such an inclusive culture is highly sought after by many workers today. So you may also end up attracting a more talented workforce.

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