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Collective intelligence

Updated: Dec 30, 2020

Photo by Franck V. on Unsplash

I recently had the pleasure of attending the Meyler Campbell 2018 annual lecture where the speaker was Geoff Mulgan (CEO of Nesta - The Global Innovation Foundation).

The focus of the speech was on a key challenge for leadership and the emergent field of intelligence design.


The main insight for me is that senior leadership teams, whether, in education, business, public service etc. need to mobilise their whole organisation and not just their teams. Not only is the job of a great leader to build and develop great teams but they need to determine how to benefit from the collective intelligence and wisdom from their entire organisation and also business partners and key external stakeholders.

Orchestrate and curate the collective intelligence in your teams

Get out and meet people, speak to as many people in your organisation as possible. Be accessible, make sure everyone has time to think and speak, not just the most extroverted or most senior.

Communicate and share information about what is going well and what is not going well. People need information, in the absence of information, they make it up themselves whilst speculating and gossiping.

Establish junior operating committees or innovation forums and ask them the following questions:

"What have you noticed that needs attention or change that I may not have noticed? And what should be done about it?"


"If the leadership team were ran over by a bus and you are now in charge, what would you do first and why?"

Act upon the ideas. Better yet, give your people the resources they need to succeed. Empower your teams, and sponsor more junior talent so they are willing to take the risks required to try out their ideas.

And don't forget to tell everyone what is happening. Publicise the experiments that these motivated, hardworking, and talented people are trialling as you seek to mobilise your broader organisations.

Challenge the status quo, don't embrace it!


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