We need to get smarter to understand the complex and rapidly changing world we are facing. The right way forward can only arise from a dialogue between different specializations.
The Strategy process – setting out a common direction to navigate in complex environments – is highly dependent on the ability to combine and integrate knowledge from multiple fields of specializations. We want to be able to create an accurate map and compass of how to navigate towards sustained and increased success. This sharing of knowledge is often limited by specializations speaking different languages – whether by access to different data, different prioritizations, different cultural values or even by actual language as in jargon. We call this knowledge integration ability Collective intelligence.
Collective intelligence is a capability that can be systematically developed. This ability allows us to leverage the specialization built up in the organization, help us to speak a common language, and set out a mutually agreed direction.
The group’s relationship temperature and connectivity – the ability to explore perspectives – needs to be a focus area and something we must plan to consciously develop
Relationship temperature is a critical foundation for high performance in groups, research clearly shows. Testing this proposition is quite easy. Imagine a management team that doesn’t trust each other, perhaps one you have been in before. Are people more likely to talk to each other or about each other? Are they more likely to try and understand the others’ perspectives or try and score points? Do they question “how we always do it” and existing presumptions? Relationship temperature is built on trust. The more complex the task, the more we need to trust each other. Strategy formulation is a highly complex task, thus, our need for trust increases. Trust is a choice, based on openness. Openness is something we can control and thus use to build trust through a virtuous spiral.
Connectivity is about the ability to explore perspectives, shaped by the communication patterns of a group. Research has shown that low performing groups typically spend most of their time advocating for their own perspective – trying to convince others that they are right. What characterizes a high performing group is the ability to communicate in a wide variety of styles and explore multiple perspectives. We need to have the flexibility to explore other’s perspectives and not only advocate for our own. In your management team, which phrases are you more likely to hear? “I think we should”, “I feel that”, “I need…”, or “What do you mean by…?”, “Do I understand you correctly when…?”, “I think you want…?”.
Developing a higher relationship temperature and connectivity will increase your management team’s ability to handle complex issues as a group. The knowledge sharing and exploration will increase as well as the representation around the common goal and the commitment to contribute to it, as a group and with their individual role and responsibilities.
Since we have concluded that strategy processes require us to handle complex issues, that the rate limiter is often our ability to integrate knowledge, and that this is an ability that can be trained, it only make sense to plan for how to increase our ability to integrate knowledge. We call this a Collective Intelligence Acceleration Plan, and we suggest every management team should consider how they structure theirs.