Collective Intelligence is enabling organisations to tap into the shared knowledge and expertise of large and diverse groups of people to address a variety of business challenges. There are many ways in which organisations are using Collective Intelligence and we discuss some of these below.
The Internet has given rise to some remarkable technologies that enable people to collaborate. All over the world, organisations are starting to open up social networks and collaborative environments from which emanate an endless stream of data and insights. The potential that lies within interconnected networks of computers and humans is only just starting to be realised.
Intelligence can be thought of not only as something that arises within human brains – it also arises in groups of people. This is Collective Intelligence – individuals acting together to combine their knowledge and insights to develop value for decision-making. Collective Intelligence is an emergent property and emerges from groups. Its power can be harnessed to benefit organisations in multiple ways.
Ideation and Innovation
One of the areas in which Collective Intelligence methods have been commonly used is for generating ideas and solutions for an infinite range of problems. Organisations are encouraging networks of employees, customers and other external parties to use Collective Intelligence tools to better monitor and analyse their output and interactions.
Many Collective Intelligence tools consist of virtual environments where participants can interact to discuss ideas and opinions or provide feedback on particular topics, seen in services such as Yammer, Crowdoscope, Chatter or Facebook at Work. Discussions can be on-going or fixed for a specific length of time. Typically, participants can make suggestions, receive feedback from others, as well as rate and comment upon another’s input. Community ratings and commentary on participants’ suggestions can be analysed and key themes can be identified through text analysis.
Knowledge Sharing and Work Distribution
Organisations and employees are confronted with the ever increasing pressure of having to do more with less. Collective Intelligence tools can reduce complex problems into simple tasks that can then be worked on simultaneously by a large number of individuals. This parallel task approach is especially effective for work that computers find extremely difficult to do. For example, labeling large numbers of uncatalogued photographs or categorizing ambiguous photos. For example, Amazon’s MTurk web service enables companies to access this marketplace and a diverse, on-demand workforce. Decision makers can leverage this service to build human intelligence directly into their work applications.
If you have ever had problems with a product or software, it is likely you would be directed to an organisation’s online Q&A messaging board. Companies such as Apple and Microsoft will often encourage customers to go to their community forum to see if other visitors have had similar problems, post questions to the group, and look up previous answers on how issues have been resolved. This is a Collective Intelligence approach, as many organisations use distributed Q&A to reduce direct support costs and provide answers to common questions.
Predicting the Future
Aggregating diverse perspectives, knowledge and experience of employees and customers can improve the accuracy of predictions, allowing organisations to make more informed, evidence based decisions that can complement traditional forecasting approaches. Analysis can then determine forecast probabilities for the various outcomes. Clearly, this is especially useful in financial organisations and a whole new industry – Prediction Markets – has sprung up around. For example, Cindicator is a prediction market platform that combines human input (in terms of trading strategies, forecasts and buying signals) with artificial intelligence and machine learning to increase the accuracy of financial forecasts.
Coordination and Collaboration
Coordination is when a community is created with the aim of spreading information quickly and widely. Increasing connectivity means that groups are able to cooperate and achieve what once was the exclusive domain of large centralised organisations. Social media, for example, has the power to rapidly organise and mobilise employees – even when they are geographically or temporally dispersed. Through technologies such as Yammer and Crowdoscope, people within different offices can coordinate and share their ideas, suggestions or criticisms and discover what others are saying.
Max Willson, Research Consultant & Michael Silverman, Managing Director, Crowdoscope