Knowledge-poverty is fading. The ever-increasing connectivity to the internet and social media is enabling a corresponding increased access to information of all sorts (often in a real-time manner), empowering people with knowledge and creating communities of knowledge reserves.
People and communities are thus becoming carriers or conduits of a variety of knowledge and a potent source of intelligence, well beyond traditionally known boundaries or sources.
This situation entails opportunities for tapping into and benefiting from such available knowledge and intelligence – often termed as collective intelligence – for co-creation and building solutions to the problems faced by individuals, organizations, and societies.
By definition, collective intelligence is “the wisdom, talent, information and knowledge that can be used/shared for intellectual cooperation in order to solve problems, create, innovate and invent” (Aitamurto, 2016; Kim, Altmann & Hwang, 2010). However, the growing use of online communities, artificial intelligence (AI) technologies, and thinking machines for work purposes adds new knowledge dimensions, resulting in an expansion of collective intelligence’s conceptual scope and practical utility.
Organizations have thus started leveraging the benefits of collective intelligence for a variety of purposes, such as new product development, idea testing, marketing, new technology development, and solving customer problems, just to mention a few. For instance, Innocentive.com operates as an intermediary and taps into collective intelligence to help organizations solve their problems by connecting the organizations with experts from all over the globe.
The question then is ‘what are the sources of collective intelligence that organizations can tap into?’ Below we attempt to answer these questions. Needless to mention, the list of sources as discussed below is meant to develop thoughts on the subject and should not be construed as exhaustive or complete in nature.
Sources of collective intelligence
- Crowdsourcing of knowledge from social media groups
One of the potent sources of collective intelligence is social media (SM). Using specific social media groups such as groups on Linkedin, Whatsapp or Facebook in a contained manner could be very useful to expand organizational teams’ knowledge capacities.
By becoming part of SM groups, members of organizations can bring new knowledge into the organization and learn from the wisdom of others, or if needed, seek experts’ help from within the SM groups to solve problems or facilitate the completion of tasks as needed.
- Tacit knowledge possessed by staff
Another source of collective intelligence, which often remains untapped, is the tacit knowledge possessed by the staff. By understanding and recognizing the pool of hidden knowledge available within the organization, it can be used to solve problems or perform complex tasks.
- Knowledge embedded in the immediate networks of staff members
The immediate social networks (online or offline) of staff are another key source of collective intelligence. It is not realistic to think that an organization can be linked with all possible relevant social networks to take advantage of the knowledge available within the networks.
Therefore, by tapping into knowledge and intelligence available within the immediate social networks of staff members, organizations can expand their knowledge capacities and level of collective intelligence. Caution needs to be exercised to avoid legal complications or jeopardizing secrets when tapping into such networks, though.
- AI devices and thinking machines
The growth in the use of AI technologies and thinking machines for work purposes is creating opportunities for knowledge creation in new ways and is becoming a vital source of collective intelligence. The AI devices are expected to make decisions, perform tasks, and take actions when involved in specific tasks and projects. Organizations can engage AI devices to use their computing power to help increase knowledge capacities and the resultant collective intelligence.
- Experts external to the organization
The availability of experts outside organization boundaries is one of the commonly known sources of collective intelligence. Bringing in experts into the organizational fold increases the collective intelligence of teams as these experts transfer both tacit and explicit knowledge for the achievement of organizational objectives.
The information revolution has changed the way we understand, perceive, and recognize the meaning of knowledge. Since no one person or entity possesses all the knowledge, using collective wisdom, talent, information, and knowledge is the need of the time. Advancements in technology have made it possible to use collective intelligence for work purposes.
In the context of the above discussion, how do you see the role of collective intelligence in organizational learning and development?
Aitamurto, T. (2016). Collective intelligence in law reforms: When the logic of the crowds and the logic of policymaking collide. In 2016 49th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS) (pp. 2780-2789). IEEE.
Kim, K., Altmann, J., & Hwang, J. (2010). Measuring and analyzing the openness of the Web2. 0 service network for improving the innovation capacity of the Web2. 0 system through collective intelligence. In On Collective Intelligence (pp. 93-105). Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg.