Harnessing Our Collective Intelligence Transforms Good Teams into Top Teams

On of the greatest differentiators between adequate teams and top teams is in the harnessing and integrating of their members’ collective intelligence (CI) and wisdom accomplished through the process of deliberate and focused dialogue. Thinking about our lives as educated and smart adults, we take various experiences throughout our lives and continually integrate these discrete but connected events as we develop. Through adulthood and maturity (which tends to be overrated as an experience), we, as learning beings, continue to integrate our experiences – personally, organizationally, and experientially.

Given the mount of information that we are exposed to and bombarded with, we have become intelligent and knowledgeable as individuals. Yet, to the extent that we can develop the requisite emotional and rational intelligence and then apply them within a global world, we become wiser human beings. Through fully integrating our own knowledge, specialization, and wisdom with that of the people we work with most closely, we create collective intelligence – a major differentiator of top teams versus as collective of smart and cooperative individuals. This is not something that happens automatically. Rather, it is a constant, deliberate process with incredible payoff.

Matt Ridley (2010), author of The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves, explains that the acceleration of evolution over the past 45 years – what we refer to as progress – is not explainable by evolution alone. Ridley states, “Rather, it is due to collective intelligence: the notion that what determines the inventiveness and the rate of cultural change of a population is the amount of interaction between individuals.” He postulates that the “sophistication of the modern world lies not in individual intelligence or imagination, it is a collective enterprise that relies on exchange” – of ideas, thoughts, and commerce.

As Ridley (May 2010) powerfully asserts:

“…human takeoff was caused by the invention of the collective brain made possible by the invention of exchange. Once human beings started swapping things and thoughts, they stumbled upon divisions of labor, in which specialization led to mutually beneficial collective knowledge. Specialization is the means by which exchange encourages innovation. In getting better at making your product or delivering your service, you come up with new tools. It is this exchange that makes change collective and cumulative.”

How we mine and utilize the collective IQ of a team is the great differentiator between good teams and top teams. How we do this is largely dependent on creating a deliberate atmosphere, clear expectations, and agreed-upon processes that can drive the requisite dialogue forward. And this has to occur in a climate that is diverse enough in its experience and specializations that exchange among members produces real value.

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