Collaboration Intelligence in the Fourth Industrial Age: CI


Industry 4.0 Organizations: Disruption & Reinvention

From IQ to CO-Q: Developing the Adaptable Learning Organisation — by Collaborative Intelligence

As an Organism, an organization is composed of people, using skills adopting an organizational language — this article focusses on the essential element integrating them all together.

In an age when everyone has instant access to infinite information, sense-making — the ability to turn flows of information in real knowledge — has become today’s scarcest and most valuable resource and the key leverage point for value creation. The company’s primary source of wealth is therefore derived from its insights, knowledge, and ideas. Its success depends on how it leverages its intellectual capital.”

(Pietersen 2002, 2012)

Instead of just looking that an organization does (strategies, tactics, operations), we can also look at it in terms of what is required to operate. We can ask what is required, to develop and use tactics for example? Or to develop and use strategies when everything is in motion?

One way of addressing this is the one advocated by Professor Eric Beinhocker (Executive Director of the Institute for New Economic Thinking at the Oxford Martin School, University of Oxford) focussing on knowledge. Knowledge does not have to be perceived as an assumption, or as an external factor. It has to be in the heart of the business [Beinhocker 2006]. For this reason, value-creating strategy must include a thorough knowledge of each area of the company in order to develop a competitive advantage. Thus is defined in Beinhocker’s terms as complex open networks of interactions — as an open system adopting different strategies, each differentiated by Market, Business, Finance and Technology, each forming a quadrant of a circle with the fifth, value-creating strategy in the middle.

For knowledge to be created, people need to engage, share, communicate, c-develop, mesh, mash, whatever it takes to develop common, actionable understandings. This requires people to adapt themselves and their own, personal mindsets, values and insights to common agendas, processes and requirements. The complex the environment for interaction, the more we need to adapt as we engage, share, communicate and develop.


This is why we often use the word ‘agility’ to explain that which is needed to navigate through this ‘ocean of complex interaction’. It is predicted that there will — in the wake of alignment to tendencies throughout different sectors — be a need for more inquiry and knowledge-intensive creation processes within the workforce. Processes will require to appraise context, externalising knowledge for sharing. As described in the article ‘What is Agile?’ by Stephen Denning (Forbes online):

Becoming an agile organization is an increasingly urgent necessity for companies in today’s digital economy, yet most companies have a deeply embedded command organization architecture and culture. This reflects, first and foremost, the industrial economy mindsets and skills of their senior leaders, which is arguably the greatest obstacle to becoming an agile organization… To make the transformation, senior leaders must learn and practice a holistic and complete set of new mindsets and skills, and apply them to design a wholly new, agile organization architecture and culture.”

However, while agile is a term we know from the software development industry, it is not the same as ‘agility’. Martin Fowler (The New Methodology: Fowler 2005) defines ‘agile methods’ in terms of two fundamental aspects, as ‘adaptive nature’ and a ‘people first orientation’, both welcoming change. He defines ‘agile methods’ (with comparison to prescriptive methods such as used in engineering) as being:

  • adaptive rather than predictive:

Engineering methods tend to try to plan out a large part of the software process in great detail for a long span of time, this works well until things change. So their nature is to resist change. The agile methods, however, welcome change. They try to be processes that adapt and thrive on change, even to the point of changing themselves.’

  • people-oriented rather than process-oriented

The goal of engineering methods is to define a process that will work well whoever happens to be using it. Agile methods assert that no process will ever make up the skill of the development team, so the role of a process is to support the development team in their work.’

Collaboration intelligence

Often, people speak one language, people skills often another. by being adaptive, and people oriented, aligned with processes, we are able to develop the language needed to share and develop progression towards ‘collective mastery’ that is the organization. This involves iteration, following adaptiove process cycles over and over again, feeding in change and making sense of it.

So just as new software development practices such as DevOps is supplementing and replacing Agile, so must a new integration between people engaged in development and operations in the organization come together, adapting to the stream of change and learning, developing our adaptability and ability.

This is the organism view, or optic concerning organization 4.0.

Organization 4.0

Organization 4.0’s are those organizations adopting a pro-active approach to integration with industry 4.0, re-aligning communities of people coming together by common purpose

All at a time when that same purpose is being altered by ‘new tech’ using machines taking over those things they are best at, freeing us to concentrate doing what we are best at, creating better presents and more desirable futures. The question we need to ask, is are we aligned with the machine-networked reality in how we perceive ourselves and how we interact? This is what Richard Straub, President and founder of the Peter Drucker Society Europe, had in mind when we he observed:

Being human is consciously to bring judgment, intuition, creativity, empathy and values into play. In business, it is the domain of entrepreneurial thinking and innovation, of weighing decisions, of collaboration and trust — qualities that are utterly different from the machine logic of networked sensors and processors.” [Fischer 2015]

So instead of just looking that an organization does (strategies, tactics, operations), we can also look at it in terms of what is required to operate, in terms of people. We can ask what is required, to develop and use tactics for example? Or to develop and use strategies when everything is in motion?

As an organism, an organization needs to grow, accommodate, expand or contract.

Strategy setting is replaced by adaptation, feeding in relevant data just as when we look at the pattern of our spending on the bank statement, which is really just a spreadsheet. In the industry 4.0, strategic planning becomes replaced by DevOps, agile by agility, people learning to communicate, share and come together in new ways as the ‘new credibility’.

Being aware of the ‘Catch 22’

Industry 4.0 impacts heavily on the creation of new organizational and business models, driving innovative practices, products, services and experiences. The evidence is overwhelming: Dynamic project teams, innovation capability-building, using design-based skills and mindsets and discovering the hidden value in people to lead, develop insight and collaborate are all essential ingredients for 4.0 organizations.

However, while reinvention is necessary, it is also dogged by paradoxical situations. For example, an October 2016 FIS study found that 99.6 percent of insurers surveyed admitted they face obstacles in implementing digital innovation, while 80 percent recognize they need digital capabilities to meet business challenges [McKinsey].

This is a classic ‘Catch 22’, a paradoxical situation from which an individual or organization cannot escape because of contradictory rules — what we need creates obstacles creating barriers to perceiving our needs. Catch-22s often result from rules, regulations, or procedures that an individual is subject to but has no control over because to fight the rule is to accept it. Catch 22s arise from difficult circumstance from which there is no escape because of mutually conflicting or dependent conditions.

Organizations from both the public and private sector therefore face the hurdle of transformation integrating all three levels as simplistically as possible, in order to provide the agility needed — and avoid the catch 22. As digital transformation sweeps through sectors, it is imperative the 4.0 Organization balances a digital mindset with innovative agility. 4.0 organizations need to work effectively and creatively so those people in the organization are those whose work is impossible to replicate by machine or automated processes.

Effective intelligent collaboration

The most important aspect of all in the 4.0 age — is how to address and bring into motion effective intelligent collaboration. To this list, weighed in the direction of technological development must be added the new practices that have to be implemented, developing agility in the organization.

  • people interaction design
  • process & interaction design
  • interaction spaces and learning augmentation

CI focusses his teams to list priorities. Specs, price, whats needed to bring the product to market. Consensus amongst different sectors can be described in terms of ‘need for integration’ of people and skills, something that can tend to get lost in the soup of balancing standards, man, machine and product. CO-I requires balance. A balanced approach, for example, could be envisaged, dependent on the type of view of perspective any stakeholder has in the organization or enterprise. This could involve building innovation capability, better collaborative methods or effective data management. Each would require balancing one against the other, whether developing more effective methods for idea generation, communication or a data-centric optimization and customization of products and services.

Ultimately, CI is part of EI, emotional intelligence, harnessing the creative potential all of us possess, so instead of a Steve Jobs saying (in 1991) ‘more likely, they will start to understand that they want to put our workstations on the desks of a wider audience… have them all in the same network’. This is predicting the future to get ahead in the game.

Or for today, be disrupted. We have a choice.


Beinhocker, E. D.,( 2006). The Origin of Wealth. Boston, Mass.: Harvard Business School Press

Fischer, B. (2015) The End of Expertise. HBR online Oct 19, 2015

Fowler. M. (2005) The New Methodology

Pietersen, W. (2002) (2012). Reinventing Strategy: Using Strategic Learning to Create and Sustain Breakthrough Performance. Wiley: New York