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The Reality of Collective Intelligence

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The process itself is most often supported by a technical infrastructure of systems, tools and data.  These are transactional in nature and grounded in the capturing of historical events used to predict a future outcome. Collective intelligence in this example is not simply common thinking.  Quite the opposite—it is the uncommon thinking that comes from the respective biases of each function involved in the process—Marketing, Supply Chain, Finance and Sales. Effective collaboration of these different perspectives in interpreting the data and understanding the future can be a competitive advantage for an organization. Best practices in this area are built on the ability to share ideas, discuss and overcome conflicting elements or differences of opinion in order to achieve high performance. In this example collective thinking and strategizing is broader than the leadership of the organization. Bringing the right people together becomes more important than having the best Pedigree or the best idea.

Collective Intelligence is movement—it is fluid, in many cases deliberate, and constantly evolving.  More importantly it fulfills a basic human need. Human beings are social, and throughout history have found ways to share their ideas, work towards common goals, and celebrate the successes of their collaboration. They have overthrown governments, ended wars and distributed enlightenment. The fact that this may be common does not deter from its impact on organizations and communities, policies or social norms. The momentum of holistic thinking against shared values is significant. Its impact is transformational as it defines experiences and outcomes on multiple levels.

I have experienced it firsthand. My example is in the context of an annual event, which takes place in many cities across Canada, known as the ‘Walk for the Cure”. The goal is to raise funds for important research that will one day cure breast cancer. This is a collective group of strangers—men, women and children coming together with one ultimate goal in mind. I was fortunate to be part of this, not as a walking participant but because of my address at the time. I lived on a street in a community that was part of the designated walking route. In my first year as a member of that community, I experienced the power of this collective movement and how inclusive it was. The street burst with what I will call the Walkers—pink t-shirts, waving hands, smiling faces and cheering voices despite tired feet and aching limbs.  The sidewalk burst with neighbors from blocks away bringing oranges and water bottles, homemade baked goods, and as many high fives and handshakes as there were blades of grass on the walked over lawns. I can only describe it as a pink flurry of harmonious chaos.

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