5 rules to identify collective intelligence

The question almost always asked by a curious and potential customer is: ”What is the minimum number of people required to achieve collective intelligence?”. The answer - “There is not a minimum number!” - is never satisfying. At once, you see your listener losing their smile. There appears to be significant disappointment by those expecting the number to be one million, one hundred, or only thirty. “No! Isn’t there a minimum number?”. I can say ‘No’. That’s it. If anything, there are social requirements for a community to become a wise crowd.

The American professor, Christopher L. Tucci, together with Italian Gianluigi Viscusi, research fellow for the chair of Corporate Strategy & Innovation at the prestigious EPFL, named their recent working paper: Distinguishing ‘Crowded’ Organizations from Groups and Communities: Is Three a Crowd? Are three people enough to make a crowd? Yes, if we consider it ‘a wise crowd’.

Tucci and Viscusi identify the critical conditions without which a group can not be defined as a crowd (i.e.: a heterogeneous and fertile environment that fosters the emergence of ideas). These conditions are:

  1. Growth rate and its attractiveness to the members” — Growth and capacity to welcome new members from outside the initially involved community; this is the real difference from a closed group which, by definition, can not acquire new members
  2. Equality among members” — no matter who’s the member of the group advancing a proposal, every proposal is to be reviewed using some type of selection mechanism.
  3. Density within provisional boundaries” — the members have to be confident of sharing the same physical, or virtual environment such as in the online platforms.
  4. Goal orientation” — Focus on the same target, since it is precisely the existence of a shared target to be achieved which gathers the people from the beginning.
  5. Seriality of the interactions” — Serial nature of the interactions: they must be recurring and non-episodic and thereby they show continuous coordinated activities aimed at achieving the shared goal (point 4)

By checking the 5 rules, everyone can estimate whether your organization can be an effective source of collective intelligence.

Let’s take the family . If the family is dominated by a strong father figure, then it violates the second condition. If it is free of constant sharing of ideas, then the fifth. Furthermore, the family members hardly share a common goal; therefore, it is difficult to identify the family as an example of collective intelligence.

And now it’s up to you: is the company you work for a pool of collective intelligence? And your group of friends? Or your extended family?

fabrizio@oxway.co

bill@oxway.co