How to stimulate the collective intelligence of your teams?

Collaboration and agility in favor of innovation and value production

We live in an era where information technologies have become integral to the daily operations of companies. Many of us spend a significant portion of our workday in the virtual realm, interacting with various technologies such as business support solutions, communication systems (such as intranets, extranets, internet, emails, or chats), and productivity tools.

With the increasing digitization and automation of routine tasks, the simplistic approach of optimizing business processes based solely on factors like cost reduction, time-saving, and increased quantity, which was advocated during the previous industrial revolution, is no longer sufficient, especially in mature markets. Today, having accurate and up-to-date data is not enough to make informed decisions. It is essential to transform that data into knowledge that can generate value.

Intangible factors such as creativity, diversity, and independence of employees are crucial in enhancing the production of this added value, especially in uncertain and highly competitive environments. Therefore, it is essential to involve business experts in strategic decision-making, while also inviting "operational" experts to contribute positively and assertively. In other words, those who can contribute more and better to improvements are also the ones who benefit the most from those improvements.

Through these purpose-driven human interactions, where individuals share their respective theoretical and experimental knowledge, a collective knowledge emerges that is greater than the sum of its individual parts, regardless of how brilliant those parts may be.

The daily use of techniques for sharing knowledge and individual experiences within a group that interacts with each other requires plans for adoption with the teams. Prepared moderators can facilitate change management by systematizing and accelerating these collaborative processes, which culminate in the generation of collective intelligence.

Today, agile management methodologies, such as Scrum, are better suited to complex and highly unpredictable operations that involve emerging technologies and require fast deliveries. These methodologies promote communication within the team and demonstrate that solutions built collaboratively and iteratively among all team members yield better results than traditional management approaches that rely on rigid, exhaustive, time-consuming, and hierarchical planning.

Other methodologies, such as design thinking, focus on innovation by solving problems and identifying opportunities for improvement. Like agile methodologies, design thinking is also a systemic, collective, and collaborative process that starts with observing everyday life, progresses through generating ideas for improvement, and ends with testing through proofs of concept. It is typically applied in situations where specific, personalized, and high-quality solutions are desired.

At a time when much is said about artificial intelligence, I believe that innovation and differentiation are primarily achieved through human intelligence, amplified by the power of the community. The differentiating value comes from focused collaboration within specific times and contexts, rather than just programming algorithms to interpret variables, automate processes, and yield results. Each case is unique and has its own optimal timing.

The utilization of collective business intelligence, which results from cooperation within and between teams, is achievable with decentralized leadership based on networks, and thus, is distinct from traditional hierarchical structures.

Visionary and inspirational leaders with high capacity for mobilization and aggregation will entrust change management processes to their multidisciplinary and competent teams, allowing them to comprehend the challenges and opportunities at hand. This approach increases levels of commitment, motivation, and accountability of both individuals and groups, and the results will soon become evident, even surprising the most skeptical.

Modified and updated in 2023, this article was originally published at Jornal Económico on December 24, 2019.