27 February 2018

Gaining Clarity on our Collective Intelligence process

After 10 years of working with Collective Intelligence I thought it was time to get down on paper some key learnings from my experience. When I started this journey, I didn’t fully understand what was being created or, for that matter, what could be achieved. It was a very simple concept, and still is really, but the complexities are intriguing.

Here’s the question I would like to flesh out. What does Collective Intelligence achieve that other models can’t?

I am still surprised by some of the comments or misunderstandings that exist about CQ (Collective Intelligence). The more popular ones are – our only focus is business or we are just for like-minded people or we are for CEOs only. None of these are true.

So, let’s set the record straight before we begin defining collective intelligence.

  • The CQ community covers over 75 industries and professions across New Zealand and beyond. This is an important defining aspect of what makes us different.
  • We fundamentally do not aspire to the concept of like-minded people coming together, in fact we think that is a totally counter-productive design. Creative tension is Diversity in Action.
  • The membership is made up of people from the age of 21 through to 70+ years, with professional status being absolutely irrelevant. We have encountered and worked with CEOs and high-status individuals, who have reached these positions through sheer tenacity and bloody-mindedness, and can be a complete pain in the arse. That is, they do not have the capacity to be functional members of any CQ team because they cannot accept and respect the differences found in others. Imagine what they are like to work with day in day out?

Now let’s focus back on the simplicity of the CQ model. We create teams of people who would not naturally mix or hang out together on a professional basis. Each member must exhibit the four attributes.

  • Competency
  • Ambition
  • Curiosity
  • Authenticity

You can’t just have three of these attributes to function in the CQ team, all four need to be present.

Oh, and it’s not for spectators. You need to step up and participate without the ego tagging along.

Competency is important because being challenged by a competent person is vastly different than being challenged by an incompetent person. Competent people simply ask better questions.

Ambition as an individual to commit to continual development is hugely important, otherwise you tend talk about the same shit over and over again.

Curiosity is the least understood, but possibly one of the most important. It is the ability to be able to observe, and reflect what the hell is going on. There must be a desire for more knowledge and perspective, while not accepting the status quo. Curiosity often dries up in adverse situations, just when you need it most.

Authenticity provides a platform to have open and honest discussions, without the bullshit or smoke and mirrors that is so tiresome and unproductive.

During our recruiting process, and throughout the designing and constructing of CQ teams, we are always mindful that new members must exhibit these attributes. This focus has meant our ability to recruit and select new members is improving year-on-year.

The most important part of the CQ process is the design of the teams. A well designed team has a diverse range of members because people with different personalities and at varied stages of their career can help to foster creativity and offer a range of perspectives and ideas. We fundamentally do not believe that hanging out with people who are like you, who agree with you, who view the world through similar eyes, or may stroke your ego, is good for you.

Enter Collective Intelligence. This actively disrupts the normal pattern of social interaction occurring every day throughout the world, where we are drawn to people who look like us, talk like us, and wherever possible have come from a similar background to us. And, while this can be nice and comfy, it is generally not an environment where innovation is created or learn to develop new skills. Perhaps the most important skill being the ability to be interested in a view that you do not agree with, while not destroying or sabotaging the dialogue.

Sabotaging a dialogue is a strategy people often use when they feel uncomfortable, or out of their depth. This technique can be incredibly well honed, and one that frustrated me immensely as a facilitator.

CQ breaks down the invisible barriers that exist between industries, professionals and within ourselves.

Instead of just being strong with your opinions, to engage actively in Collective Intelligence you need to be strong in your values, so that you do not get lost in the mix of worldviews.

This can be easier said than done.

Having the ability to stay in dialogue, and relevant to a crunchy conversation without being emotionally triggered represents a high level of functioning. The great irony is that once you develop this skill, your ability to influence others will be far greater than you ever had before.

So, what are the outcomes of engaging with Collective Intelligence? Unsurprisingly it differs from person to person, but if I was to summarise in a few words it would be an increase in emotional intelligence, creating adaptive, thoughtful and brave leaders.

We believe that by cultivating smarter, more caring, connected and effective leaders we can positively shape and impact our future and our collective sense of place that is uniquely New Zealand.

A rich diversity of voices and perspectives creates an evolutionary new generation of wisdom we call Collective Intelligence – effective action, positive impact.

What can Collective Intelligence achieve that other models can’t? Universally, it’s about behaviour enhancement, effectiveness, resilience, and being more reflective and is also much more.
Ten years on I know that we are only scratching the surface with this dynamic model, and that as our membership grows year-on-year, I wonder: ‘What’s to come? What’s possible?

And watch out for the new rebrand coming in June, where we will be transitioning from the name CQ to Collective Intelligence, to help make our offer a whole lot clearer.

Ian Harvey (Harv)


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