Collective intelligence is a fashionable concept that allows us to increase the quality of our decisions. But what is collective intelligence?
1) Individual decision-making intelligence
As developed in our article "the formula for making good decisions", individual decisional intelligence consists in establishing links between information and the objective pursued in order to select the best option.
2) Collective intelligence
a) What is collective intelligence?
Collective intelligence is the result of pooling the intellectual resources of each participant, increased in number and quality by the exercise of collective thinking.
Through the exchange between the participants, through the confrontation of the information and logical links of each one, through the addition of information held by the other participants, we will notice 2 things:
- on the one hand, each participant will develop his or her own reflection and resources (information and logical links);
- on the other hand, the information of the different participants combined in this way will give rise to new ideas, new logical links and will thus enrich the collective reflection.
We can conceive of collective intelligence as a common pot.
The common pot will contain all the information initially held by each of the participants (in blue in the diagram) as well as the new ideas, information and logical links generated by the collective reflection (in green in the diagram). It is therefore more than the simple addition of the initial resources held by each participant individually.
The greater the number of participants, the more resources the collective reflection will generate. The common pot will grow exponentially with the number of people contributing to it.
As the options and arguments are multiplied, the decision will be more thoughtful and therefore more qualitative.
This leads us to the following formula:
b) What is the process?
Collective intelligence requires a willingness on the part of participants to pool their resources and thoughts.
It is the exchange between the participants that will allow the resources of each to mix, to confront each other, to evolve and to generate new information and ideas.
Collective intelligence is neither the result of chance, nor the result of a simple addition of the resources of each person, nor the result of an average of the resources of each person.
In reality, collective intelligence is the result of an iterative process.
The process that leads to collective intelligence, to the "common pot", is in fact an addition of interactions between the different participants. Each interaction generates its own new ideas and reflections.
In concrete terms, the intelligence of participant 1 meets the intelligence of participant 2, resulting in new information and logical links that are added to the common pot. Participant 3's intelligence in turn meets the intelligences of participant 1 and participant 2 as well as the new resources born of the meeting between 1 and 2, creating in turn new information and new logical links that add to the common pot. Participant 4 in turn encounters the result of the collective reflection that took place between 1, 2 and 3. And so on with each participant in the group.
The common pot, which has gone through the reflection of each participant, can finally be returned to participant 1, who will in turn be able to take note of the enlarged common pot, feed on it and bring in other information and logical links that this common pot would inspire. Before passing it on to the next participant, etc...
We are describing the process here, but these reflections can be held at different levels, and between different participants, at the same time.
This process can go on for a long time until it is considered to have matured sufficiently.
Collective intelligence is not a mystical energy that magically emanates from the harmony of the group. It is the result of a rational process of maturation of ideas generated by the multiple encounters of different intelligences.
c) How to use this common pot?
Collective intelligence being a common pot, it is only a common pot.
The collective intelligence is only a reservoir of information and logical links. It is up to each participant to draw from this common pot to feed his or her personal reflection.
Although using the collective intelligence, each individual remains alone in front of the decision he will have to take. Also, the common pot, the collective intelligence generated, will only be usable by each individual to the extent of his own individual intellectual capacity (potentially increased by the exercise of this pooling).
Let's imagine a group of 10 participants. One of them is an idiot. One is a genius. The other eight have an average intelligence.
The collective intelligence, fed by the contributions of our genius (among others), will deliver a common pot of great value.
However motivated he may be, our idiot will only be able to benefit from the collective intelligence generated to the extent of his own capacity to understand the information.
Not all participants will necessarily be able to use the collective intelligence generated by the pooling of individual intelligences (information and logical links between the information itself on the one hand, and between the information and the objective pursued on the other).
- The person who is not able to understand or use the collective intelligence generated, may decide to delegate the decision making to the person who understands better than him/her, which will sometimes prove to be the best decision to take.
- In a context of pooling resources (collective intelligence), individual intelligence will always be less than or equal to collective intelligence. If the individual intelligence of a participant remains superior to the collective intelligence of the group, it is because the individual in question has not delivered to the group all that he could have delivered to it.
d) When to use collective intelligence and under what conditions?
The use of collective intelligence is an excellent way to mature the reflection in order to make better decisions.
Activate the collective intelligence of your team if you want to :
- Generate new ideas, new thoughts in relation to a defined objective;
- Validate the objective to be pursued;
- Challenge the quality of your information and arguments;
- Avoid cognitive biases (impacting both the information and the logical links). Perception errors, prejudices, etc. are challenged, counterbalanced and corrected by the inputs of the other participants;
- Involve your team members.
To encourage the emergence of the desired collective intelligence, you will make sure to :
- Indicate to the participants the context and the collective objective;
- Emphasize the evolutionary nature of the exchange and encourage changes in positions;
- Supervise the exchange process between participants;
- Allow everyone to express themselves freely (without fear or constraints of any kind);
- Allow everyone to express themselves completely;
- More generally, ensure the psychological safety of the participants (trust, security, freedom);
- Finally, ensure that the conformism bias is limited as much as possible (possibly through anonymization of exchanges), at the risk of seeing the interest of the exercise reduced to nothing.
Our tool allows you to place the members of your teams in the best conditions to mature the collective thinking.
Qwiid ensures freedom of expression to each participant and promotes the consideration by each of the positions and arguments of other participants.
The collective reflection takes place in a serene and structured way.
You benefit from a collective intelligence of quality, allowing you to make the best decisions.
 With regard to collective intelligence, some authors sometimes refer to an experiment in which a crowd is asked to determine the weight of an animal. In this experiment, each participant is asked to estimate the weight of the animal individually. It turns out that the average of the weights mentioned individually by the participants tends to be very close to the real weight of the animal. At most, this experiment shows that the extreme proposals (light weights mentioned and heavy weights mentioned) tend to neutralize each other. This is in no way collective intelligence which, in order to exist, requires collective reflection among the participants, which cannot exist without exchange among the participants.