Collective Intelligence: The power of smarter, quicker team thinking

Janine Garner

Janine is a businesswoman and entrepreneur, passionate about the return to open and transparent corporate relationships and the power of commercial collaboration in future-proofing careers and businesses. Janine is the author of <i>From Me To We – Why commercial collaboration will future-proof business, leaders and personal success</i> published by Wiley. She is the founder and CEO of LBDGroup and works with senior leaders to build high-performing teams.

When we think about the bottom line in business, the immediate jump is fiscal performance – how much value do we have in terms of cold hard cash? What sort of reserves do we currently hold; what sort of profit margin do we have in place? Are we in the red, or the black?

In a business environment that is only growing more and more unstable, fast-paced and demanding, there is more we need to consider when measuring success. The reality is this – the consumer can have what they want, when they want it, with a constant stream of new products, new apps, new concepts, and new information, that are downloadable, deliverable and easily digestible 24/7. Just because you were the best five minutes ago, doesn’t guarantee that you will be five minutes into the future.

In fact, if you are serious about future-proofing your business, then you need to be ready to think outside the box of traditional success measures.

Collective or collaborative intelligence on a commercial level is the new currency. Appreciating the value of an ‘intellectual bank’ and what it brings to your business is not just forward-thinking on a theoretical level, it’s bottom-line positive as well.

As leaders, as colleagues, the opportunity to engage on a team level brings strategic power to an organisation or enterprise that is simply not possible with people working in silos – in the ‘me’ space. There is no sharing of thoughts, or discussion that leads to development.

Move into the ‘we’ space, however – that space of collaborative team engagement – and the thought space opens up.

Take the example of Apple. Steve Jobs was the visionary; but was he the only big thinker within the company? His death led many to predict that it would take a nosedive in market share and profitability. But Jobs was the first to say that the reason for Apple’s success was the strength of the team.

This year, Apple CEO Tim Cook announced record first-quarter profits, and said: “The execution by our teams to achieve these results was simply phenomenal”.

The value of team thought means improvement and innovation. Put a team of big thinkers on a project or challenge and you have:

  • discussion and debate
  • a sharing of expertise and insight
  • negotiation on concept and vision
  • team engagement and innovative thinking on the ideal solution for the success of the company
  • growth and profit potential

The isolation of working alone is endemic in making that bottom line look less a healthy. Take your own performance structure as an example. If you are constantly focusing inwards, seeing only what you need to do to achieve your own KPIs and bonuses, you miss out on banking others’ knowledge.

It’s rapidly becoming apparent that skills are an increasingly valuable commodity for business. You could, for example, suggest to a teammate that you ‘swap’ a skill for a skill – teach each other something you previously had no knowledge of. It will stand you in good stead.

Collaborative thinking, togetherness, really does drive the momentum of change. If you think that an idea could be bettered then as a group you have the ability to use your collective voice. Yes, this may mean collaboration rather than isolation and it may be uncomfortable in the short term, but the long-term rewards benefit the team rather than the individual.

Team or collaborative thinking is all about invention. It’s the rationale behind Google, Microsoft, AirbNb. It is fast becoming part of the measure of a company’s emotional intelligence. Luckily, it is also becoming part of the measure of that ever-present spectre – the bottom of the P&L statement.

Tags: strategy

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