How to Tap Into the Collective Intelligence of Your Workforce

Collective intelligence is the group intelligence that emerges from the collaboration of many individuals. If you truly believe that employees are your single greatest asset, you would reward and compensate them accordingly for their ideas and their ability to contribute to your organization's success. Here, Knowledge Center contributor Vivek Bhaskaran explains how to effectively harness the power of the collective intelligence of your employees.


Wikipedia describes collective intelligence as the "shared or group intelligence that emerges from the collaboration and competition of many individuals." The notion of collective intelligence is not new. After all, every time we sit in a conference call or a meeting, that is exactly what we are doing. We're collectively pooling our resources-our intellectual horsepower-together to see if we can come up with a solution that is better than the sum of the individual parts. All along, we are also competing for attention in the form of time and recognition.

What is new, however, is the mode and scale at which this can be done now, successfully. Just as online meetings and conference calls have helped change the game in terms of remote access, work and productivity, companies that effectively harness the power of their most important asset-the intellectual capacity of their employees-will be able to extract higher value out of that same asset pool (their employees).

While taking a look at the success of Yammer, Salesforce Chatter and Jive Software's communication suite as models of communication across the employee base no matter how small a company, it'll be obvious that harnessing collective intelligence must be part of any organization's human capital strategy.
Now, let's go back to our definition from Wikipedia. There are two components the definition encompasses, Collaboration and Competition. I would like to bring up a third construct that's needed in order to harness the power: Rewards and Incentives. We live in a capitalistic, merit and goal-oriented society; rewards and incentives play a very big role in productivity and the ability for an organization to effectively orient itself in a particular trajectory. Let's think about the collective intelligence of employees with each of these three ideas in mind.