Project Management

Leadership for Collective Intelligence

From the Servant Leadership: Serve to Be Great Blog
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This blog is about leadership as it applies to projects and project management, but also as it applies to society in general. The bloggers here manage projects and lead teams in both business and volunteer environments, and are all graduates of PMI's Leadership Institute Master Class. We hope to bring insight into the challenges we all experience in our projects and in our day-to-day work, providing helpful tidbits to inspire you to take action to improve—whether in your personal life, your business/work life or on your projects. Read, comment and share your experiences as we share ours. Let’s make the pie bigger! Grab a slice!

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Categories: Best Practices, Leadership

In our daily life, many of us have sometimes found that our individual efforts are not enough to find a solution or make a decision - that it is necessary to cooperate with our colleagues, friends or  family members. Such cooperation especially works well when you are experiencing some common challenges or have common interest in leveraging opportunities.  James Surowiecki in his book Wisdom of Crowds also reveals that a diverse collection of independently deciding individuals is likely to make certain types of decisions and predictions better than one person or even experts.

To overcome today’s social and business challenges are getting more complicated and require the power of collective intelligence by cognition (sensing), coordination and cooperation of a group of people. Getting more connected every day also provides more opportunities to enable the potential of aggregated knowledge, insight and expertise of a diverse group by enabling its members to communicate, visualize, and diversify in virtual environments.

According to Surowiecki, the intelligence of the crowd can fail when the group is homogeneous,  centralized, divided, imitating and highly emotional.

Prof. Oinas-Kukkonen, in his book Knowledge Management: Theoretical Foundations, captures the wisdom of crowds approach with the following eight conjectures:

  1. It is possible to describe how people in a group think as a whole.

  2. In some cases, groups are remarkably intelligent and are often smarter than the smartest people in them.

  3. The three conditions for a group to be intelligent are diversity, independence, and decentralization.

  4. The best decisions are a product of disagreement and contest.

  5. Too much communication can make the group as a whole less intelligent.

  6. Information aggregation functionality is needed.

  7. The right information needs to be delivered to the right people in the right place, at the right time, and in the right way.

  8. There is no need to chase the expert.


Enabling and elevating the intelligence of the crowd is a new critical role of Leadership besides visioning, influencing and establishing the trust of followers. To demonstrate leadership for collective intelligence, leaders need to:

  • identify and build alignment around the potential benefits of cooperating to achieve the vision.

  • inspire others to contribute their best cognition (sensing), coordination and cooperation

  • create trusted environments where people can talk and think together across organizational boundaries.

  • create space for new insights to emerge.

  • catalyze creative thinking, innovation and wider perspectives among the people they lead.

  • inspire coordinated action, rooted in common purpose and shared commitment.

  • conceive, operationalize and facilitate transformational design.  

Dear Reader, the opportunities beyond collective intelligence are limitless and provide immense power for massive changes. With your leadership, you can enable the intelligence of a group in many situations, providing unique solutions to complex problems, and creating transformative innovative ideas,shifts of strategic thinking and cultural change.

What do you think? Is it worth a try?

Posted by Tolga Özel on: November 28, 2016 05:37 AM | Permalink

Comments (4)

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Very interesting. Knowledge Management is a hot topic.

Collective wisdom and bringing out the best in team will go a long way in tackling the project thus focusing on the organizational strategic objectives.

nice and crisp article

Dear Tolga
Interesting perspective on the theme: "Leadership for Collective Intelligence"
Thanks for sharing

I was surprised by some of Prof. Oinas-Kukkonen on wisdom of crowds

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