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Articles > Collective Intelligence At Work #129 5-29-12

Can you provide an example of a company using Collective Intelligence?

Collective Intelligence involves including a group to solve problems, innovate, and grow your business.  It’s part of the weekly meeting rhythms agenda suggested by the Rockefeller Habits and Gazelles Coaches and an important element in Positioning Systems Strategic Discipline.   

Instead of one person deciphering and unraveling the issues your business faces, the leadership team, or a group of employees sits down to figure out the best way to meet a specific challenge.  The following is an example of how one of my clients worked through an issue using collective intelligence. 

The issue involved an employee who performed supervisory duties in the company’s warehouse.  He’d been doing a good job improving productivity according to the company’s key performance indicators.  Yet he had grown increasingly unhappy that this performance was not entitling him to a raise.  

Through a series of emails, he expressed his dissatisfaction.  His last email to the executive team prompted discussing the issue in our weekly meeting:  He was threatening to leave unless recognized for the improvements his supervision provided.

Our discussion revealed that this employee appeared to have already approached his supervisor about his disappointment.  His approach had not gotten response he wanted.  His supervisor has the authority to provide increases in compensation when warranted.  

This was one of the first questions asked in collective intelligence.  Were supervisors at this location given the latitude they should have to make decisions on raises and performance reviews?  The lack of clarity on what authority is given by that locations manager was important to verify.  Within this company’s policies and procedures it was clear each manager had the liberty to exercise raises.  

From this discussion, one of the leadership team made plans to meet with this location’s manager on Tuesday to discuss resolving this issue.  The owner felt the most important thing here was to allow this location’s management team to do their jobs and make the correct decision. 

Additional questions discussed were:

Where this person fits into an equity and appropriate pay grade at this location as opposed to their location? Does a different market provide different circumstances for pay levels and rewards? 

What is the current review process in this location and is the management team there on board with following it? 

When are reviews occurring, who is reviewed, and how are decisions made and recommendations handled?

I asked whether or not this type of issue had been recurring in this location.   This was the first significant issue where something like this had occurred.  It suggested that was more to this underlying the surface of just the night supervisor’s complaint. 

Another question:  Were procedures not being followed or was this an isolated employee issue with one disappointed staff member?  The direction seemed to lean to the latter.   Recurring issues have not been the norm here suggesting until this incident the management team in this location performed and handle their staff very well.

It turned out that after the meeting that week Tuesday, the leadership team member discovered the night supervisor, while performing well, had a behavioral issue with temperament.  Seems he would be aggressive at times, and use anger to motivate and discipline his people.

When all of this was understood and explained to the supervisor who had registered the complaint, a schedule was laid out for another formal review in the fall which he fully agreed to.  In the meantime, specific standards for his team’s performance were laid out, as well as improvement in his behavior included as part of his expectations to improve his leadership skills.   

This example of collective intelligence resolved a rather minor issue.  However, had it been ignored, it could have escalated and created morale and employee dissatisfaction.  It might have meant a valued and well-preforming employee would not have been heard and possibly lost without his issues being explored and resolved.

Collective Intelligence is a good example of Organizational Health that Patrick Lencioni describes in The Advantage.  This company has a solid set of policies in place that govern employee behavior. 

Leadership decisions made with the collective vision and experience of your leadership team almost always offer insights and actions that improve your company’s response to the issues and opportunities you face.

Is it time your business considered the value of adding collective intelligence to your meeting rhythms and your decision making process? 

Need help implementing these ideas?

Positioning Systems helps business owners and entrepreneurs transform their business.  We provide the tools and coaching to help you take control of your business -- rather then having your business control you.