Collective Intelligence

“When two minds are coordinated in the spirit of harmony, the mastermind is evolved.” This is a quote from the short video of Team Yaha’s facilitation of a team exercise that we have used at LionSpeak which we called Steering the Pen.

They contend that the mastermind, or collective intelligence, is more powerful and productive than individual minds working independently. The trick is that, in order to form that collective mind, individual minds must be “coordinated in the spirit of harmony.”

It makes sense that we’re better together. When we meet to solve a problem or expand a possibility, we each bring our experience, knowledge, talents, and perspectives, adding to the collective IQ pool from which to generate solutions, ideas, and options. We often fill in each other’s gaps, creating a much greater whole from which to envision and expand the future.

But we also bring our individual biases, doubts, fears, and limiting beliefs to the same meeting which can limit or kill ideas and stifle the collective genius in the room.

I believe that creating and leveraging collective intelligence comes down to developing strong team agreements and employing a good facilitator. When we bring a group of two or more folks together, it’s important to craft agreements about our common objectives and the ground rules for the meeting. Without these, individuals (intentionally or unintentionally) can derail the collective intelligence process. Equally important is to have a facilitator who is skilled at holding the group accountable to the ground rules and keeping their eyes on the prized objectives.

At a recent team retreat facilitated by LionSpeak, we helped the group develop these ground rules:

* I agree to be fully present, engaged, and participatory. We want to access the brilliance of the entire group! We agree to “get in” this meeting and play full out! We will keep our energy high. We will be prepared to offer solutions, ask questions, and share ideas. We will refrain from checking emails and social media, texting, having sidebar conversations, or any other form of multi-tasking. Our phones will be silenced. We will not hide or shrink from the conversation.

* I will be open to new ideas, bring an energetic attitude, and display positive, attentive body language. I will come with an open mind and a positive attitude. I will lean into the group and display encouragement, interest, and support. I will challenge myself to entertain different points of view and perspectives.

* I will be supportive and allow myself to be supported. Being authentic, open, and vulnerable is what makes us real. I will ask for what I need and allow space for others to get what they need. I agree that my silence means I understand and/or that I agree. It’s unprofessional to remain silent and not ask my questions or voice a concern, only to later tell someone in private that I disagreed all along. I will be brave and trustworthy.

* If I disagree, I will do so with dignity and respect: I may not agree with all opinions, ideas, or material presented. When I offer a different point of view, I will do so respectfully. I will challenge the idea, never the person. I will help to create a safe environment where everyone is treated with respect and dignity.

* I will be on time and prepared. We promise to start and end the meeting on time as well as be back from breaks on time or early. We ask that everyone arrive a few minutes early so that we are ready to go when the meeting begins. If you arrive late, please do not interrupt the meeting. Katherine will acknowledge you as soon as it is appropriate to do so. Please plan to stay until the end of the meeting.

Your list of agreements might look different, but this group, who had been previously challenged with creating collective intelligence, reported that after putting this list in place, it was one of the most productive meetings they’d had in a very long time. Sometimes, we just need to make the expectations clear, remove the barriers, and facilitate the greatness and intelligence in the room.

This week, create your own set of ground rules and consider hiring or training someone on your team to become a skilled facilitator to help pull out the mastermind and collective genius lurking just below the surface of your team.

“Harmony makes small things grow, lack of it makes great things decay.”
~ Sallust