Intelligence is not just something that happens inside individual minds.
It also arises within groups of individuals and this phenomenon can be quite powerful. For a number of months Imagination for People has been working on software that will facilitate the creation of what is called ‘collective intelligence.’ In preparation for the launch of this software, we thought we would take some time to introduce the I4P community to collective intelligence (CI) and show off some of its benefits.
So what is collective intelligence?
The widely accepted definition states that collective intelligence is the ability of a group of people to be collectively smarter than the smartest individuals in the group if they acted alone. This has been happening for a very long time in the natural world. The advent of the Internet however, has allowed for collective intelligence to be much more easily implemented, and is allowing people from many different regions and backgrounds to connect. This has led the MIT centre for collective intelligence to pose the question: how can people and computers be connected so that – collectively – they act more intelligently than any person, group or computer has ever done before? It is this question that we at I4P, in collaboration with MIT, the Open University, Wikitalia, Ashoka ChangeMakers, Euclid Network, CSCP, and Purpose are attempting to answer.
This has potential for enormous benefits for society.
We are examining the factors that are necessary to facilitate the emergence of CI. One seemingly obvious factor is that the level of intelligence exhibited by a group would be related to the individual intelligences of the group’s members. Research at MIT however, has found that the average and maximum intelligence of the individual group members was only moderately correlated with the collective intelligence of the group as a whole.
So if it’s not just getting a group of smart people together that creates this heightened intelligence, what is it?
It turns out three factors make the difference between the emergence of collective intelligence and groupthink:
- Average social perceptiveness of group members. Basically, how empathetic are the people in the group? People that score higher in this area tend to work well in groups. The more people with high social perceptiveness, the higher the intelligence of the group
- Evenness of conversational turn taking. Are the group members giving everyone an equal opportunity to speak and are the group members taking these opportunities?
- Percentage of women in the group. The researchers found that the level of intelligence the group displayed was positively correlated to the number of women – to the point that groups of all women actually displayed the highest levels of collective intelligence emerging. This is related to social perceptiveness as women generally score higher than men in this area.
Further research is being conducted to refine these findings.
So how is this being used?
We will go more into this in later blog posts but the development of technology that facilitates this has great implications for education, democratic processes, and other social issues. MIT for example has set up a platform, called Climate CoLab, that allows an ever-growing community of 4000 people to discuss and propose solutions related to climate change. Some of these solutions have even been presented to the United Nations and the Government of the United States. It’s pretty exciting stuff!
What do you think about collective intelligence? Have you ever been part of the process? Do you think developments like this will be beneficial in the world of social entrepreneurship? Tell us what you think in the comments below!