Collective intelligence is the actuation of capability that we have together. Of course, this can be higher or lower than the average intelligence of our group. In other words, what we can do together can be better or worse than what we can do apart. Low collective intelligence might be ok when we are not interdependent or if the task at hand stays the same. However, there is now no doubt that we live in a complex world that requires adaptation to the systems around us. The only way we will surmount the challenge of success within this complexity is with collective strength.
Destroyers of collective intelligence
Of course. If we cannot find ways to be open, honest and transparent about our work, our requests from each other, the ways in which we hold each other accountable or deal with conflicting ideas what we do together will be limited. We often find ourselves making the less than ideal decisions of avoidance or attack in our communication.
We reduce our collective intelligence if we do not feel that we are safe enough to say what we see, what we need, what we can question; If we don’t feel safe enough to wonder and ideate, stray off the beaten track or have the vulnerability to say we don’t know; If we deny ourselves or some part of ourselves in work for the sake of fitting in or if we feel that we may be judged and therefore present an image that is different from the one we feel inside.
The trust we feel when we are together will determine how much we can rely on each other and therefore how much we can do together. We know that high performing teams are 50% more productive and 76% more engaged (Zak, 2017). However, being trustworthy is something that not everyone knows how to how to create, and being trusting is something that many people find hard.
Building our collective intelligence
- Understand the implications of our communication decisions
For some courage looks like speaking up more, holding people to account more, stating needs or opinions more. For others it looks like being courageous enough to let people see your doubts, your questions, the vulnerability to share ideas, resources, achievements or more or your holistic life. Every conversation we have we choose the type of communicator we want to be and each has it’s costs and benefits. Getting more control over the decisions we make enables us to respond to the situation and not react out of habit. In my programs, we create a shared language that describes our choices that we are making and gives us more capability to adjust according to our needs. Good communication choices are both compassionate and courageous.
- Stay curious
The ultimate way in which we stay in safety is that we stay out of judgement, blame and denial. This is much easier when we stay in curiosity. Stay open to creating a safe space for people to be, to think, to wonder. Seek their perspective for longer, welcome difference and invite difference of opinions. Look for ways that the voices around the table can add diversity of thought, if everyone thinks, or more importantly says, the same thing, what is the point of having them there?
- Learn the skills of trust
Keep people focused on the importance of trust. It is an expensive misnomer that trust takes time or that there needs to be an pre-existing vibe or connection for trust to take place. There are things we can all do, every day, every communication opportunity we have to create trust by being trustworthy, by risking trust first, and by having conversations safely. Teach people these skills and then ensure that it is practiced all the time, will ensure you build up a trust bank account that enables people to have challenging conversations with positive outcomes, create and ideate, spur each other on with energy and commitment.
Our traditional societal and corporate hierarchies are challenged in the current complex climate. Learning how to create collective intelligence is how we will reach remarkable performance. It requires commitment, skills and vigilance. It is time to learn.
Written by Dr. Amy Silver.
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