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collective intelligence

What do the most successful companies all have in common? The answer to that question used to be “the best and brightest people.” But hanging on to antiquated beliefs about intelligence may be what holds your organization back. Technology, innovation, and disruptions are changing the skills and knowledge we need faster than we can keep up. Individual smarts just aren’t enough.  

Rather than find people with a lot of stuff
in their heads,
we need to find people
who know how to find people
who know what we need to know.

We’ve evolved to understand that focusing on collective intelligence and skills produces more engaged employees with shared contributions, accountability, and commitment to the success of the team. According to recent research, if you want to ramp up creativity and innovation and improve problem-solving in your organization, focus on building your collective brainpower.

A mediocre team will produce
mediocre results from a good idea. 

A great team will produce
great results from a mediocre idea. 

Statistics show that the average employee spends more than 75% of his/her time on team-based tasks. Studies show that team dynamics are more impactful to organizational success than the skills or intelligence of the individual players. In other words, how the team interacts can actually zap the value of the individual members.  If a company wants to outsmart the competition, it needs prioritize and influence how people work together. 

Building Effective Teams

Building the collective brainpower in your organization isn’t as simple as bringing the smartest people together on a project. Trust, diversity, and collaboration are all essential to leveraging collective intelligence. The idea that diverse and inclusive teams result in better work isn’t new. There is a wealth of economic research showing that diverse cities experience greater economic growth and multi-cultural organizations grow at faster rates than monocultural organizations. 


We’ve also learned that organizations with greater diversity and inclusive cultures are more successful at generating innovative ideas and solving complex problems.  Social psychologists and neuroscientists have weighed in and contributed valuable findings to the body of research on company culture and employee engagement. 

Psychological Safety

One aspect of this emerging research is called psychological safety and it’s directly correlated to how well people learn and recover from mistakes as well as their overall level of engagement. When psychological safety is a cultural norm and people don’t have the fear of being criticized or judged, the chemistry of the brain enables greater creativity, innovation, and problem-solving.


If gender balance isn’t a priority in your company, it should be.  All-male or all-female groups become tribal and are much more likely to be constrained by groupthink.But when you have gender balance there is a feeling of psychological safety that creates confidence among team members to share ideas, and those teams have higher success rates across the board. Studies show that when women make up about half of a team, psychological safety, experimentation and self-confidence are optimal.

Two interesting byproducts of psychological safety are trust and laughter. We share laughter when we trust and that laughter creates more trust.  Both laughter and trust generate neurotransmitters in your brain that stimulate cognition. A growing body of educational research suggests that, when used effectively, humor combined with a sense of trust can improve learning and performance by reducing anxiety, boosting participation and increasing motivation to focus on the material.



Cognitive Bias in the Workplace


We’re also discovering that unconscious bias plays a huge role in the workplace and how engaged, collaborative, and productive employees are. Neuroscience tells us that 90% of our thinking occurs in the unconscious mind. Teams that understand how individual bias influences group decision making and team dynamics risk assessment have a huge advantage. 

Employee Happiness, Engagement, and Collaborative Contributions = Company Culture



Cultivating Healthy Company Culture

You’ll find your culture at the intersection of engagement, happiness, and the kinds of collaborative contributions that employees experience when they come to work each day. If people feel like they are part of a tribe and happy to be a work they will be more engaged.  If they are more engaged, they will be contributing their talents and skills to that tribe. If they feel like what they do matters to the success of the organization, they will be happier.  


One word of caution: a healthy culture is not synonymous with a kinder, gentler, happier workplace. Happy people do not automatically create an engaged culture. The irony of a “smile and nod” culture is that it can create an environment where there is no impetus to change or there is too much pressure against rocking the boat to welcome new ideas. Overachievers are looked down upon because they make mediocrity feel uncomfortable. Disagreements are uncomfortable. Challenge is uncomfortable. The status quo wins. 


Learn how to grow the collective intelligence

and give your team the competitive edge! 


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