Unlocking Collective Intelligence

Unlocking Collective Intelligence

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By Christian Greiser, Jan-Philipp Martini, Liane Stephan, and Chris Tamdjidi

Does mindfulness foster an organization’s collective intelligence? A recent study conducted by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and Awaris demonstrated a connection: 31 teams (totaling 196 people) that participated in a ten-week mindfulness program showed an average increase of 13% in collective intelligence, as measured by tests developed by the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence

The concept of collective intelligence—the capability of a group of people to solve complex problems—is not new. But the increasing interconnectedness of knowledge work and the growing variety of problems have raised the profile of collective intelligence as a competitive differentiator. So, companies need to understand the concept more systematically and scientifically. 

One key to unlocking the potential of collective intelligence is mindfulness—a state of being present in the moment and leaving behind one’s tendency to judge. Leading companies have introduced programs to unleash the power of mindfulness among their employees. But most of these companies have not focused explicitly on the opportunities to use mindfulness to foster collective intelligence. 

Solving Today’s Complex Problems Requires Collective Intelligence

Companies today must manage rapid innovation cycles and the deep interconnectedness of knowledge work. To address the challenges, many companies are investing in setting up cross-functional, agile teams. But to transition to truly dynamic ways of working, a company must fundamentally transform how cross-functional teams interact and collaborate. This requires bringing forth an emergent property of their system: the collective intelligence of their teams

We define collective intelligence as a group’s ability to perform the wide variety of tasks required to solve complex problems. Collective intelligence is not dependent on team members’ IQ, knowledge, or ability to think logically or on the team’s composition. Instead, it is largely driven by team members’ unconscious processing: their emotional intelligence (people’s awareness of, and ability to manage, their own emotions and those of others) and emergent properties such as trust, emotional and psychological safety, and equality of participation. This description is supported by studies conducted by the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence and Google’s Project Aristotle. BCG’s experience across a large number of transformations to new ways of working and agile methods also points to emotional and noncognitive factors as the key drivers of collective intelligence. 

Tapping into the Power of Diversity

Diversity is among the foundational elements of a team’s collective intelligence. In this context, diversity should not be limited to gender or functional and educational backgrounds. What’s required is a diversity of cognitive styles—that is, different ways of thinking about, perceiving, and remembering information or simply different ways of solving problems or seeing the world. 

To tap into the power of diversity—with respect to both expertise and world views—a company must create an environment in which individuals are willing to risk stating their opinions and to be receptive to listening to others. This requires integrating a team’s diversity. 

Teams whose members are not well-integrated exhibit many dysfunctions. Members often lack a sense of joint purpose and struggle to engage in teamwork. The failure to properly integrate a team’s diversity can actually diminish its collective intelligence. 

Mindfulness Provides a Potential Solution 

Companies already apply approaches that foster collective intelligence. They are increasingly proficient at setting up diverse teams, breaking down organizational silos, and implementing open information systems. However, companies often do not explicitly recognize how these efforts relate to collective intelligence and thus they fail to capture the full benefits.

Most notably, companies are not doing enough to identify and address inadequate emotional safety and trust among team members. That is because most companies are not sufficiently aware of people’s unconscious interactions and do not understand how unconscious factors influence team performance. Most companies also lack the skills and perseverance to constructively address issues related to emotional safety and trust.

Mindfulness provides a potential solution for meeting these challenges. Many companies have introduced mindfulness into their organizations, primarily to help their employees maintain well-being and improve their clarity of thinking, cognitive abilities, and ability to stay calm. However, only a few organizations (progressive entities including the European Commission, Google, Hilti, and SAP) have also applied mindfulness to transform the collective capabilities of teams. 

Most people who regularly practice mindfulness have an intuitive understanding of its connection to collective intelligence. What’s more, the effect of mindfulness practice on collective intelligence is objectively measurable. Awaris and BCG conducted extensive research to confirm the hypotheses of this article. We measured the collective intelligence of 31 teams, totaling 196 people, from a large German automotive company and a political organization. We took measurements twice—before and after a ten-week mindfulness program. (See the sidebar “About the Study.”) After the mindfulness program, the teams’ collective intelligence—measured through four diverse problem-solving tasks—increased by an average of 13%. (See the exhibit.) Moreover, we found that mindfulness is significantly associated with emotional intelligence and that individual and group mindfulness scores predicted a team’s collective intelligence.

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Mindfulness practice fosters collective intelligence by allowing us to redirect our mental attention skills (for example, capabilities of the working memory or our ability to focus on the task at hand) toward more expansive, awareness-based skills. More specifically, mindfulness practice strongly influences a person’s self-awareness of the body’s internal state (interoception) and mental processes (metacognition). Interoception and metacognition help us regulate our reactions to emotions and behaviors. By improving our ability to get in touch with our own emotions, we also enhance empathy—our ability to vicariously share the experiences of others. 

By increasing self-awareness and empathy, mindfulness impacts two areas that directly promote collective intelligence: 

  • Communication and Prosocial Behavior. Team members who embrace mindfulness are better listeners and can react in an emotionally intelligent way when tension or disagreement arises. Their style of interaction encourages other team members to speak up and participate in creative processes and allows them to integrate their diverse cognitive styles. 
  • Leadership. Mindfulness training helps leaders improve their ability to self-reflect. Mindfulness is also associated with important leadership capacities such as flexibility, authenticity, and humbleness.

Three Steps to Applying Mindfulness 

To use mindfulness to foster collective intelligence, a company must take three steps. 

  1. Provide mindfulness training. Mindfulness practice comprises a set of mental and emotional exercises that affect the functioning of the brain in a measurable way. Several proven methods of mindfulness training can help team members and leaders establish a personal mindfulness practice.   
  2. Anchor mindfulness in teams. Mindfulness can evolve from a practice to a state and eventually become a trait—when the various underlying skills have become embedded in a person’s mental and emotional makeup. Team interactions provide valuable opportunities to embed these skills. To promote mindfulness, organizations must clearly state that teams should practice three simple types of habits that foster psychological safety and collective intelligence: 
  • Attention and Focus. Teams need to establish specific habits that promote attentiveness. For example, a team can observe one minute of silence before the start of each meeting. In addition, how team members deal with devices, listen to each other, and speak can significantly affect the degree of presence and openness in the meeting.  
  • Care and Positivity. When people feel trust, efficacy, and appreciation, they engage and contribute. When they do not, they hold back and divert their energy to other things. As a result, demonstrating care and positivity in teamwork—noticing what colleagues have achieved and done well and appreciating their contributions—can be very important to improving the sense of bonding and community. 
  • Emotional Awareness. Allowing emotions to surface and be expressed becomes a natural part of what it means to work together. Processes for surfacing emotions include having check-ins during which team members share how they feel emotionally before a meeting, as well as regular retrospectives in which members share their feelings on the interactions within their team. 
  1. Establish metrics and track behavior changes. Just as manufacturers meticulously track physical safety on their shop floors, companies should track emotional or psychological safety in their knowledge environments. As a starting point, companies can use surveys and interviews to ask employees whether they believe the company has clearly articulated that emotional safety and psychological safety are goals and whether they understand how to create such safety. 

Learning more: About the Study 

Thirty-one teams, composed primarily of people with managerial responsibilities, participated in a ten-week mindfulness training program that was specifically adapted to the work context. The study focused on investigating whether a team’s collective intelligence can be enhanced by mindfulness training of its members.

To measure collective intelligence, we used a set of four diverse tasks developed for this purpose by the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence: 

  • Moral Reasoning. Teams received a case study of a problem that presented conflicting interests among several parties. We asked the teams to determine, from an ethical perspective, the most suitable solution for all parties. Responses were scored by the degree to which the groups considered the balance of competing perspectives in the problem.
  • Creativity. Teams had to build a complex Lego structure while taking into consideration tight constraints relating to size, quality, and aesthetics. The resulting Lego structure was scored on the accuracy of meeting those constraints. 
  • Output Optimization. Teams were scored after performing a shopping exercise in which they had to maximize the quantity and quality of goods purchased while minimizing the costs of goods and time spent shopping. 
  • Judgment. Teams had to estimate and agree upon quantities for 20 diverse questions (for example, “What was the highest recorded temperature in the US?”). Teams were scored based on the accuracy of their estimations. 

The selection of the tasks was based on Joseph McGrath’s model of group tasks. This ensured that we covered major aspects of collective intelligence, such as decision making, task execution, generation of innovative ideas, and negotiation. 

In the first session of the program, we randomly assigned one, or in some cases two, of the tasks to each team. We scored each team’s performance of its task. During this initial session, we also conducted an individual assessment of each team member’s mindfulness (using the “Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire”) and emotional intelligence (using the “Reading the Mind in the Eyes” test). 

In the final session of the mindfulness program, we repeated the process. We asked each team to perform one or two of the tasks that it had not previously performed. We then scored its performance on the new task and conducted another assessment of mindfulness and emotional intelligence. 

At the conclusion of the study, we used the arithmetic mean of the improvement of teams’ performance scores for the four tasks to determine the increase in collective intelligence. We also correlated the results of the individual assessments of mindfulness and emotional intelligence to determine the extent to which these two attributes are associated and predict collective intelligence.  

About the Authors

Christian Greiser is a managing director and senior partner in the Düsseldorf office of Boston Consulting Group. You may contact him by email at greiser.christian@bcg.com. Jan-Philipp Martini is a consultant in BCG’s Düsseldorf office, supporting clients around the world on enterprise-wide agile transformations.  You may contact him by email at martini.janphilipp@bcg.com. Liane Stephan is a co-founder and managing director of Awaris. You may contact her by email atliane.stephan@awaris.com. Chris Tamdjidi is a co-founder and managing director of Awaris and is responsible for the organization’s efforts relating to neuroscience research and technology. You may contact him by email at chris.tamdjidi@awaris.com.

3 ways to improve innovation at your company, now!

3 ways to improve innovation at your company, now!

CEOs are struggling to embed innovation as a grass-root movement in their companies.

As a people strategist in the quest of human-centered workplaces that boost innovation as a company differentiator, I found the value of highlighting the linchpin between a confluence of generations in the workplace and organizations’ success in a digital disrupted world.

The following article, by Joan Michelson (@joanmichelson) for Forbes, states that putting aside assumptions about age permits CEOs to embrace the richness of different perspectives of the workforce. Across generations, workers are looking for purpose, challenge and autonomy. Creating a workplace culture where people feel they are accepted, can do meaningful work and can thrive is a must.

http://bit.ly/3agrI48

@gapinvoid

In the next article, Diane Fanelli (@Diane_Fanelli) writes for HR Technologist that creating an environment of trust, where employees do not feel negatively stereotyped because of their age, can be the first step to building a conducive environment for a productive multigenerational workforce -a great competitive advantage for companies that embrace innovation.

http://bit.ly/3adL6yw

These 2 articles highlight 3 next action item that every CEO may take in the next 3 days:

  • Understand the demographics
  • Listen and acknowledge
  • Promote age-diversity

You already count with an innovation lab in your organization, it is only a matter of unleashing the power of collaboration and crowdsourcing, to tackle your most difficult problems that are precluding to deliver the customer experience you promised.

@gapinvoid @randyhlavac #NUMarketing

#innovation #multigenerations #collaboration #crowdsourcing #leadership #CEOs

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Digital Transformation: it’s all about mindset shift.

By Helena M. Herrero Lamuedra

In a world disrupted by new technologies, the change we are witnessing is fundamentally societal. The pace of disruption and the variety of stimuli that humans are exposed to -most of the time generating a level of noise without precedent- is wide, and sometimes ephemeral.

In this environment, leaders are still expected to conduct their organizations to success. And the biggest “aha” moment relies in realizing that the greatest gap to bridge is in their own brain.

When executives, that achieved their reputation -and their wealth- doing things right -that’s why they are where they are- face the crossroad of doing things differently, the first reaction may be paralysis, and the second, rejection. The pain derived from changing “who we are and how we do things” needs to be considered and included: it doesn’t arise because change is wrongly approached, it is the core of the change process -the obstacle and, at the same time, the opportunity.

When leaders are able to connect and give space to their own discomfort with change, they are able to better grasp what is at stake in their organizations -that are, no more and no less, a human collective that needs to face its own journey.

Shifting from a place of “expert” to a place of “learner” is one of the first steps. Easier said than done, this shift implies a revamping of the concept of power. If power if not concentrated at the top of the pyramid and the leader is not the only one holding information and decision, what is the result? Well, the result is called “crowdsourcing”: acknowledging the wisdom of the many to solve extremely complex and multidimensional problems requires leveraging diversity of though, as well as a good dose of conflict as the engine that will question limits and explore the fringes. And ultimately will mobilize the organization to embrace new and different ways of being and doing.

Once leaders get their feet wet in this paradigm, as a domino effect, other things are possible, such as redefining: what are our company’s assets? how we make money? what is needed to convert fixed costs into variable? who is our client and what is her/his purpose? are we ubiquitous enough? are we making decisions in silos, pretending that one person/ team/ department/ organization can solve multi-layered needs? can we partner with our competitors? it’s an integrated ecosystem a more sustainable response to an everchanging reality? what is the skillset and experience we need to produce different results?

There are million things to sort out and, thanks to many front-runners, many tools to leverage in the quest to realizing what is possible.  And, last but not least, digital transformation (like any transformation, for that matter) is an inner job!

Put the Enterprise Collaboration Focus Where it Belongs: The People

Put the Enterprise Collaboration Focus Where it Belongs: The People


#collaboration #crowdsourcing #wisdomofthemany

Companies like Jive, Yammer, Telligent and more promised to take social into the enterprise to drive a long list of business benefits, from improving productivity to fostering company culture, to boosting the bottom line.

Ten years later, Facebook and LinkedIn remain the 400-pound gorillas of the consumer social market, with tremendous growth, engagement and market value.

On the other hand, most enterprise social networks have been acquired and faded into the background as new digital workplace tools proliferated. New collaboration apps, notably Slack, took their place and their cache, although it’s beginning to look as if the newcomers may suffer a similar fate.

Why Did Consumer Social Networks Thrive While Workplace Counterparts Stalled?

One view is that consumer social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn thrived because they focused on people, while enterprise social networks put their focus more on the content being shared. Community forums. Document collaboration. Group messaging. All of these are good things.

In fact, the teamwork they enable is the heart of enterprise social. But these elements alone can’t make a community thrive without an understanding of the people driving it. The stickiness of Facebook and LinkedIn stems from the “network” part of social network: the relationships between people, with their content as a supporting function of those relationships.

To further complicate matters, wrangling all that content has become increasingly difficult. The communication and collaboration enterprise social networks enable provides real value. One company, for instance, found its enterprise community helped reduce the cost of sales by $2 million, while another increased employee satisfaction by 10 percent.

But eventually, like Facebook and LinkedIn, every organization ends up suffering from digital crowding. There is simply too much stuff in too many places for a human brain to comprehend. Searching for information requires an out-of-pattern activity that delays output and pulls our attention in a million different directions. Instead of fostering productivity and harnessing corporate memory, it hinders it. Eventually, this whittles away at any collaboration app’s adoption until the next shiny tool is brought in — only to suffer the same fate as the cycle continues.

Is Collaboration in the Digital Workplace a Lost Cause?

Not at all. To succeed, interactive intranets and enterprise communities must learn from their consumer counterparts and shift their focus from content to emphasize their organization’s greatest asset: its people. While this may sound more philosophical than tactical, it’s anything but. Creating a network based on relationships requires technology that both understands the connections between members of the network and dynamically personalizes their experience based on those connections. As more people and content enter the community, and relationship signals dial up or dial down with each interaction, the network should become even more powerful.

Bringing Graph Technology into the Collaboration Mix

One of the most powerful ways to achieve this is through graph database technology. Amazon Neptune is one example, and describes the concept well: it works “with highly connected data sets … optimized for storing billions of relationships and querying the graph.” When applied to an enterprise community, a graph database enables the platform to go far beyond the relatively simple constructs of “are you a friend/connection? (yes or no)” to understand much deeper levels of relationships, such as:Organization chart relationships.Explicit personal and professional relationships that aren’t hierarchical, with differences between friends, team members, colleagues, mentors/mentees, doctors/patients, etc.Implicit relationships, where commonalities exist between people based on their skills, location or activities, but without formal connections.By putting people at the core of the collaboration experience, graph databases can help enhance and even transform traditional content and collaboration capabilities into a richer set of people-to-people, people-to-content or content-to-content experiences. Take search: When your platform can understand what you work on and who you work on it with, its ability to deliver meaningful results will be dramatically improved. It can parse huge data sets about individuals as well, so it will “know” you too, not just your relationships. Combined with emerging technologies like text analytics and deep learning, that knowledge will enable semantic search that understands your context and finds what you need, when you need it, rather than just processing keywords.Search, of course, is only one example. A people-powered engine can help improve all of the standard enterprise collaboration use cases and makes new ones possible. By intelligently leveraging the connections between people and their work activities, platforms should prevent the creation of duplicate work and enhance commenting, versioning and more. Graph databases can also potentially streamline the chat experience, both within your primary digital workplace and externally, by curating conversations to serve up what’s most important and weed out the rest. 

Finding Knowledge in the Crowd

If I sound excited about these possibilities, it’s because I am. After years of watching enterprise social “innovation” translate to new features that barely move the needle, the technology has finally caught up to the vision. Big data has brought us big opportunity. With the intelligence of a people graph, enterprise communities and interactive intranets can now facilitate true collaboration and connection, and in turn, deliver results around engagement, alignment and retention. The modern enterprise social network will no longer contribute to digital crowding — it will help you find the most valuable people and knowledge in the crowd.