The rate at which technology is changing makes firms to start looking for ways that will help them get the innovations needed in order to compete. They are calling upon the power of mass collaboration by involving the resource of those they could not employ, what is now called collective intelligence. Collective intelligence is basically the shared or group intelligence which results from collaboration and competition of individuals. It occurs in many forms in bodies involved in consensus decision making. Through collective intelligence, the social pool of knowledge in companies and corporate can be enhanced. In today’s global market, company executives have realized that to truly stand out from the crowd, they will have to tap into the power of corporate knowledge. This can be achieved by employing social software; companies should create social sharing spaces that will help employees interact with others of similar interests, backgrounds, experiences and skills.
According to, Collective intelligence (2007 p.3), innovation can only be driven through collaboration. 700 CEOs studied by IBM agree that finding new growth areas, new products and services and coming up with new in-house processes and business models are the top ranked strategies for companies to stay competitive. And ideas that will be used to make these strategies work will come from partners, employees and clients. These will also largely depend on the ability of companies to collaborate, as this is an important competitive factor which separates under-performers from out-performers depending on their ability to innovate. Business leaders should look for ways of creating a culture in which cross corporate boundary collaboration is an important part of the corporate structure. They should create conducive environments in the organization where team efforts are valued. These can easily be implemented if they bring together the skill and scale by using the emerging collaborative technologies. People can locate and link up with a large and extended network of subject matter experts with the help of social software tools.
A culture of expertise and knowledge sharing rather than hording can be fostered in a business environment through systems that provide blogging. Individuals can use this to convey their ideas without disruptions to a larger audience, or bookmarking tools which allow users to tag, store and share links in an online service to their online contents that they like. Categorization by tagging enables colleagues in the workplace to search for any relevant information on these tags without using e-mails or instant messages that can cause interruptions sometimes (Collective intelligence 2007, p.6).
Another component of social software solutions that is vital to the operations of a business is the collaborative project tools. People use these to form teams of required expertise or skill, with open and fluid membership that helps them accomplish tasks or meet goals that are related to a particular business initiative. An example of this can be when product documentation or strategy papers are coauthored by a team of experts. Here wiki is a good example of a collaboration tool that allows people to edit, create, add, remove or change content by use of a web browser.
From “IT is driving innovation” (2010 par 15) one sees how collective intelligence drives innovation from what happened at Cisco Systems, where the Macintosh computers were not supported by the central IS department. The more than 10,000 users of Macs set up their own internal wiki that helped them share tricks and tips on many things like how new software can be installed and how to get their Macs work with the company’s printers. This just shows how innovations, be it small or big can easily be shared. If companies and corporate can find more ways that are effective in sharing the small innovations with one another so that each does not have to reinvent the wheel, then they will be able to achieve a faster and steadier economic growth pace and an improved competitive advantage for the companies.
Examples of companies that have effectively used collective intelligence are Wikipedia, Google, Threadless and InnoCentive to name but a few. Google takes up judgments of the many people as the create links to the web pages and use them to produce answers that are typed in the Google search bar. Wikipedia on the other hand has used thousands of contributions from across the world to create the world’s largest encyclopedia with remarkably high quality articles. Threadless uses the collective intelligence of people in designing and selection of T-shirts, The collective intelligence genome (Malone, Laubacher & Dellarocas p.1).
As much as collective intelligence has been dabbed as the best way to drive innovations, it has faced some challenges especially from its critics who have opposing views; they have formed anti-globalization movements citing various reasons. Some argue that corporate expansion only comes at the expense of the poor, that information and ideas shared only go into helping the rich in the world.
It has emerged from the report that for companies, organizations or corporate to keep pace with the changing world of technology, they will have to find ways of tapping into the idea of using collective intelligence. They can only realize this by doing the following;
- Should be able and ready to collaborate with others, should stop treating innovation as a one-man, one-idea show, Imaginatik (Bryanmahoney, 2010 p.1)
- Should create a conducive culture in their organizations where collaboration is seen as an important part of the corporate structure
- They should employ the use of social software tools that will help people to locate and link with networks that have the subject matter they want
- Small innovations should not be ignored, instead ways of sharing them with others should be found so that each does not have to reinvent the wheel over and over again.
- When using the social software tools, they should make sure that the intellectual capital of the organization is protected and at the same time making sure that the critical collaborative information can easily be searched.
- CEOs of these companies should be ready to give away power to other people in the organization; this will help in decentralizing decision making (Malone, 2010 p.7)
Business leaders in the world today are looking for new avenues of growth by using innovations. One important factor in fostering innovation in an organization is by coming up with a culture together with reliable infrastructure that supports collaboration and sharing of knowledge across the boundaries of organizations. Utilizing the many technological advances in IT, companies can use the designed collaborative software components that support the different communication patterns organized around important business topics. If a more collaborative infrastructure that is community-based is built for today’s knowledge worker, business leaders with the help of IT will be able to foster more sharing of best practices and knowledge which in effect will encourage the innovation that is necessary for companies in order to gain a competitive edge for the future.