Collective Intelligence – making it real

We’ve seen that, collectively, each organisation has the answers to many of its current challenges. That we, as managers, sit on an untapped potential of key importance: the ideas and experience of the people working with us.

However, until little over a decade ago, tapping into a company’s collective intelligence was literally unmanageable. The challenges involved were far too complicated:

  • Efficiently collect everyone’s ideas and insights, regardless of individuals’ geographical dispersion
  • Create a collaborative environment where ideas are discussed and enriched
  • Evaluate proposals, in an unbiased way, to find the best answers

A lot has changed. The growth of the Internet, powerful communication tools, social applications and software and corporate adoption of new technologies make meeting these challenges possible. Today, you can easily be open continuously to all the different opinions and inputs from within or outside your company, regardless of geography, time zone and even language. Anyone can collaborate and contribute to innovation agendas, no matter how large the organisation.

Collective intelligence worth millions

The Brazilian company Fleury is an example. This major group – providing clinical analysis in Latin America – has currently more than 10,000 employees. All have been included in Fleury’s innovation efforts.

In 2007, the company initiated a program to encourage suggestions for how to improve its operations, allowing all employees to submit ideas on paper, which were then evaluated by an innovation committee. To optimise the process, the group next adopted, in 2011, the Central de Ideias, or ‘Idea Market’. Created by Exago, this innovation management solution is a software platform where all stakeholders can participate – not only collecting and harnessing everyone’s ideas, but also evaluating them.

Within a year, the results overtook even the most ambitious targets:

  • Ideas submitted: escalating from 1,809, in 2011, to 7,269, in 2012, when the new model was implemented (an increase of more than 400%)
  • Ideas approved: more than doubling, from 443 to 946
  • Ideas implemented: increasing from 225 to 300. In just over two years, more than 900 were implemented.
  • Participation: growing from 712 to 3,309 people (15 months after implementing and disseminating Exago’s model, more than 70% of Fleury’s staff had actively joined in)

More people now improve ideas and select which to implement. The proposals resulting from this model are most likely better because:

  • They are more plentiful
  • They are enriched by all
  • They are chosen by the ‘wisdom of the crowd’

Fleury’s innovations have generated millions of dollars in value. They have reduced operating costs, introducing more efficient, sustainable and environmentally friendly processes.

Earlier this year, almost 7,000 participants were still interconnected and actively participating. People are at the centre of Fleury’s culture of innovation.

What role is then left to managers today?

Pedro do Carmo Costa, Exago’s director and co-founder

Sitting on untapped potential – The power of your organisation’s collective intelligence
What role is left to managers today?

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