How can collective intelligence speed up innovation ?

By Constant Ondo

I promised at the end of a former post on knowledge transfer to give my point of view on how collective intelligence can and must be used to speed up innovation.

Here we are.

The issue is essential, for several reasons. First, because innovation is key for companies’ long-term survival. Second, because relying on collective intelligence means value every individual within an organization. And third, because Artificial Intelligence can here bring added-value without replacing human beings.

And I think it deserves to be reconsidered within the boundaries of the company itself. The trend is today to seek salvation outside, through Open Innovation or co-creation projects for example. I am not saying that innovation should be an isolated work ; quite the contrary. But it should not be delegated to third parties. Innovation is a core activity.

Some might argue that opening towards the outside mainly aims at collecting more ideas to feed the company’s innovation funnel. Yes. But let’s not forget that quantity does not mean quality (as conventional brainstormings unfortunately tend to prove). And that external partners do not hold the company’s know-how.

The good news is that reinvigorating the ideation process within the organization is rather simple. And it starts with the three principles herebelow :

Believe in your ability to innovate

If the top management is not deeply convinced that the company holds the necessary knowledge and skills to reinvent its products, how could the rest of the staff ?

Yet, this is more or less the message that is sent when the company is seeking for new ideas at start-ups.

Certainly, the compelling need of developing new products in a short timeframe and the « all digital » call make it tempting to go and pick technological solutions at newcomers and graft them on the existing offer. But hasn’t your company better to offer than just another connected object ?

Certainly, the R&D and marketing departments might sometimes find it hard to think out of the box. But to what extend are information silos responsible for that ?

All along my experience, I never came across a company where the ability to innovate had vanished. But I met several where it had fallen asleep, individual energy having surrendered to a lack of follow-up, and thus results.

To wake it up, the best way is not to start with a suggestion box or an open innovation project but to build a KMAP (knowledge map) in order to reveal the unique know-how of the company. This is THE right starting point for innovation.

Create new connections

What does a company need, once it has regained faith in its ability to innovate and is clear on what its areas of expertise are, to trigger the ideation process and reduce time needed to move from the idea to the product ?

Here is where collective intelligence really comes into play. But under its analytical form, if we can say so. Because even if the concept of collective intelligence implies that several brains are more creative than one, collective intelligence can not be unlocked simply by having more people around the table, or by giving people who did not know each other before the opportunity to work together.

To become effective, collective intelligence requires to deconstruct what makes individual intelligence and to reconstruct a new thought pattern, on a wider scale, through the creation of new connexions.

Let me explain. We all have at our disposal data, information and knowledge that we use to understand, think, decide. When asked, as individuals, to participate in a collective project, we enter in a communication and exchange process where the intelligence we share is uncomplete, provided over a limited period of time and within a limited circle. We only transmit the information that we believe useful for the group, for this particular group, and in the context of this particular project.

What would happen if we could instead share all the data, information and knowledge we own with all our colleagues, anytime, without any pre-analysis ? We would enable them to create unsuspected connections between what they know and what we know. We would widely broaden the space for creativity.

Easy, you may say, all it needs is to implement a knowledge management solution. Yes and no. It is of course necessary to have a tool that will collect, record and share knowledge. But to succeed in deconstructing individual intelligence, a strong dose of artificial intelligence is also required.

Natural language processing, deep learning and neural networks will enable to extract from the knowledge material, that will always be shared with a cognitive bias, the exact element that makes the connection relevant.

Anyone will then be able to access the intelligence needed, when needed, to exert creative skills.

Objectify the decision-making process

Last essential step to nurture the ideation process : avoid missing good ideas because they will not be supported by the right opinion leaders, or killing their innovative potential because of lukewarm consensus.

Voting for an idea is a subjective action. Unless one is capable beforehand to evaluate to what extend this idea is feasible at an acceptable cost, with a satisfying result on the market, and how it will be adopted by customers. All this objectively, of course.

Here again, artificial intelligence will help your teams through the automation of the evaluation process. It will provide them solid arguments to select the best project. How ? Thanks to algorithms based on scientific methods for complex problem solving and innovation management.

We designed PICC Software to enable you apply easily the three principles hereabove. And our solution goes even further ; it supports your teams from the idea to the solution in order to secure innovation results. You will discover how in another article coming soon.

Willing to reinvigorate and to speed up innovation in your company ?

Lets’ talk about it !