Conference Notes

Notes on "Group Intelligence Across the Enterprise: 5 Keys to Success"

From left-to-right: David, Luis, Alex, and John

Luis Solis from GroupSystems moderated a session on “Group Intelligence across the Enterprise”. Panelists were Alex Pentland (Professor, MIT Media Lab and Co-Chair, Center for Collective Intelligence), and John Abele (Chairman of Boston Scientific), and David Marshak (IBM).

Luis Solis, GroupSystems
Luis is aiming to bring a slightly different perspective to what we’ve been hearing about so far. The people on the stage have been involved in group collaboration for 25 years or so. The frontier and focus … is true many-to-many collaboration. Luis is highly impressed with the quality of the firms on the demo floor.

Context … a new way to work. The technology is only as good as the people and processes that surround it.

Group Intelligence …
– Personal productivity is so yesterday.
– Group intelligence … team genius, group wisdom, collective intelligence, high performance, and effective meetings
– Not all collaboration is equal … there’s a difference between ad-hoc collaboration, and structured group collaboration. There’s a broad range of types.
– … many-to-many exploration and innovation … brainstorming, problem-solving, teaming, “pull”

The many to many paradox … it’s where the real teamwork and innovation happens, but trust is required, a supportive culture is required, and confident leadership is required. Some organizations have a cultural advantage, because they are located in countries where the natural culture is more collaborative, eg, Sweden and other European countries. The United States is a bit more difficult.

This is all about mindset … how do you change your organization’s mindset? As per the Matrix, are you ready to take the “red” pill?

Alex “Sandy” Pentland, MIT
Sandy is going to talk about sensible organizations … and in particular scientific management through sensor networks, eg, devices that know where we are and who we talk to (cellphones).

The most important communication is face-to-face … you can’t manage what you can’t measure. The opportunity is to measure the face-to-face behavior of organizations in real time. But MIT offers a way to measure and capture the face to face interactions. How does it work? There is a name tag that includes a sensor, and it tracks where you are and who you talk to. Email and face-to-face are strongly anti-correlated … you use one or the other, but not generally both.

Can derive a formula for organizational communication … for correlation with personal productivity, job satisfaction, work effectiveness, group interaction quality.

David Marshak, IBM
IBM has 330,000 employees … how do you keep everyone on the same page?
Two IBM initiatives … IBM Community Tools … Blue Pages (overview of the person) … on the Intranet. The Skill Tap application provides a way for people to join “organizations” … that is “communities”. There are some communities that are joined by default (based on geography, for example), and others can be joined when wanted.
Eg, David had an issue with his BlackBerry, IntelliSync and Notes a while back, and was able to quickly send a broadcast message to a targeted community, eg, the “BlackBerry” community. He had a resolution within minutes.
– after the answer is given, people tapped for information are asked to fill out a dialog box (“Assistance was provided”, “Offer to assist withdrawn after further clarification”, and three others) … and also, the person asking the question can rate those who provide responses.

Caption: IBM’s Effective Meeting Client, showing who is at the meeting, who is talking, and quick click access to various meeting tools.

Quick meeting tools … a single audio conferencing number to call. There is also a desktop client that shows who is in the meeting, with links to the Blue Pages directory, and gives a series of meeting tools. This is being rolled out internally across IBM. There is also some exploration of how to hold effective meetings in Second Life.

John Abele, Boston Scientific
The world has silos … we all focus on different things. How do we figure out how to overcome this dilemna?

In the medical world, we “overcame” it by creating a new type of forum, that was done outside of the establishment. It was about how to teach people how to embrace new technologies by actually demonstrating in real time. The presenter had to be able to do an operation in real-time while presenting; the panel of experts were supposed to critique in real-time; and all of the audience members had devices for polling yes/no questions; and there were

How to make crowds wise? (1) you need to have diversity … across all indicators. (2) you need a means of getting input from everyone. (3) you need a means of aggregating that information quickly and easily.

Impediments to collaboration:
– silos, different cultures
– strong egos
– messenger killers
– pontificators
– group think (even the world’s brightest people get caught up in this)
– off topic time waters
– diverse levels of understanding
– a range of bias
– lack of leadership
– poor organization

1. Face-to-face meetings are powerful and helpful, but how do you deal with this in virtual meetings in distributed organizations?
(Sandy) … virtual meetings are important, but want to understand face-to-face meetings first. Also looking at how to use the device to drive avatar behavior in Second Life, eg, body movements, brain interest.
(David) … is it right to try to emulate the face-to-face meeting? Not sure it is right … what’s the role of video? Does it help? David is very interested in this. Secondly, in an organization that is distributed, the face-to-face or virtual meetings are the easy ones … the difficult ones are the combined ones … both face-to-face and virtual
(John) … a study by Rand a few years ago, they found that there was less group think via email than in face-to-face. In a real-time meeting, you have more of an emotional connection, and are less likely to conflict. In email, however, there’s less of an emotional layer, which leads to more diversity in thinking.

2. Please talk about the role of anonymity in innovation?
(John) … has a conference center up north of Toronto, and the concept of audience responses via keypads is invaluable. You get instant feedback, and it’s more candid. The weakness of the system is that people can’t ask questions effectively through such a system.
(Sandy) … in the last few years, people have come up with ways of collecting group intelligence via idea markets. If you can weight the votes correctly, that you can do better with the group than with a single expert.
(David) … it’s highly situational. Anonymity is good in situations where there could be group pressure, but reputation / ongoing trust requires identity. Knowing where someone is coming from is really important in many forms of collaboration.
(Luis) … the anonymity issue that John raised for asking questions can be solved with GroupSystems. It’s a form of group intelligence, not necessarily “collaboration”. Much like a “suggestions box” of yesteryear. Collect the possibilities, and then make sense of it.

3. How do we incentivize the group to start sharing their knowledge?
(John) … The most important attribute of an organization is the “culture”. The culture is built on “values” … the soft stuff … you need to create a culture where the people are not shot at for offering a criticism / suggestion … but it takes years. With respect to “trust”, you can trust an individual with reputation, but it is rare in an organization for everyone to trust everyone. But having a “trusted environment” is entirely possible.
(Questioner) … let me re-ask this … what’s the incentive for me?
(Sandy) … it comes back to the alignment of interest that the person has with the company. Today it is very different … there is no alignment between people and the interests of the company. Many are just independent agents coming together for a short period of time. If you can recognize that people are their own agent, then you put the alignment on the table …
(David) … there’s a lot about management and leadership here. It’s the rare person who will share over their own self-interest. It’s not a new question … those involved with groupware for 20-25 years know that this is not a new question.
(Someone in the room) … McKinsey has the idea of “talent markets” where you put yourself forward and seek to show what you are good at.

Five Keys to Success: A Summary
1. Be sensitive to what nature of group work you wish to improve/optimize.
2. Leadership commitment
3. Measure
4. New tools lead to new behaviors. So be careful … start with the behaviors you want to achieve.
5. Beware of obstacles … need a full frontal assault.

Categories: Conference Notes