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Thought Piece | 3 Quick Ways to Kick-Start Your Collective Intelligence Know-How

Isotta Ricci Bitti, Managing Director, APROPOS Group

The dynamics of group decision-making have always fascinated me.

I love learning about how people think and work together in groups. In particular, I have always been interested in observing the way group members behave when confronted with the challenge of integrating different ways of thinking than their own.

I believe learning more about group dynamics and activating collective intelligence is something we should invest more time into as operators of the political sector. After all, democracy at its core is moved by the ambition of activating the potential of group decision-making.

In what ways can groups learn to tolerate the stress that is to be expected when building a shared understanding of a complex problem?

How does this translate to a higher likelihood of a group engaging in insightful and fruitful collaboration in the future?

Unfortunately, when I first became curious about models of group decision-making, I had a hard time figuring out where to start.

After years spent researching and reading trying to make sense of the field - I have compiled a list of the top 3 resources I recommend to anyone wanting to start learning more about collective intelligence and the dynamics of group decision-making.

#1 Read This Book: "The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies and Nations" by James Surowiecki.

I think this is the first book I ever read on the topic of collective decision-making. To be transparent, when it came out, it received mixed reviews, but if you are looking for an easy read that takes a good look at the theory of Collective Intelligence - defined as the shared wisdom (or intelligence) emerging from the collaboration and cooperation of individuals - I think this is just the perfect start.

"... In collective decision-making, it doesn't matter when an individual makes a mistake. As long as the group is diverse and independent enough, the errors people make cancel themselves out, leaving you with the knowledge that the group has."

#2 Watch This YouTube Video: Sam Kaner - Gradients of Agreement Tool

Sam Kaner is one of the leading experts on collaborative decision-making. He wrote the fabulous 'Facilitator’s Guide to Participatory Decision-Making', a how-to manual designed to help groups increase participation and collaboration, honor diversity, and make effective, participatory decisions. This video will give you a short intro into the model of the 'Diamond of Participatory Decision-Making' that he developed with some of his colleagues. Fundamentally, the Diamond was created to validate the hidden aspects of everyday life in the functioning of groups. In his words: "Expressing difference is natural and beneficial; getting confused is to be expected; feeling frustrated is part of the course. Building shared understanding is a struggle, not a platitude."

#3 Listen To This Podcast: if you really want to start going down the rabbit hole, listen to Dr. Keith Sawyer - How to Access Group Genius and Collective Flow

Keith Sawyer is a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He wrote "Group Genius", in which he tears down some of the most popular myths about creativity - such as the myth about lone geniuses and eureka! moments - revealing that: "Creativity is always collaborative - even when you're alone." Ultimately, his approach is a good reminder that we should treat collaboration as the ultimate competitive advantage and that if our organisations and societies can be rethought and redesigned in line with this 'collective spirit' we may have a leg up on solving our toughest, most wicked problems.

These 3 resources have exponentially accelerated my learning process on how groups behave, think and work. I hope they do the same for you and inspire you to dig deeper into the world of collective intelligence.


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