Here are more of my notes from the MIT Sloan CIO Symposium: Collective Intelligence and Social Networks, Participants included: Moderator: Brian P. Watson, Director of Business Outreach, Workforce Opportunity Services, panel: Adam Boyden, President, Conduit, Robert J. Laubacher, Associate Director and Research Scientist, MIT Center for Collective Intelligence, Dr. Andrew McAfee, Principal Research Scientist, MIT, and Rob Stefanic, VP & CIO, Sensata.
Brian’s organization provides education for Vets and high school kids in need. Adam’s firm allows companies to build online apps. Sensata is a manufacturer of control devices for aerospace, autos, and other devices.
Brian asked Rob L. about the biggest trends he sees in collective intelligence. Rob noted that collective intelligence preceded people. Today, the issue is Internet enabled collective intelligence. What is new is this tool has only been around for decade and there are many more opportunities moving forward. Most often Web based collective intelligence takes the form of external connections through such tasks as crowd sourcing. There is beginning to be an understanding of how this works. Now there are companies that build communities to generate collective intelligence. He used the term “crowd computing.”
Andy picked up on Rob’s lead. We do not need to prove that this collective intelligence works. We know it does now. It generates interesting data in an unstructured form. You can gain great insights from this. He referred to Erik Brynjolfsson’s work in the morning panel (see 2011 MIT Sloan CIO Symposium Notes: Academic Keynote Panel). So he asked why are more companies not doing this? He explained that companies have been cautious. There is a deep reluctance to give up control. We have a mindset from the industrial revolution about control and structured workflow.
Brian wondered about the motivation for this. Part of the reluctance is a lack of understanding of what it is. Another trend was to slot it into knowledge management. While that is part of it, knowledge management is not the whole story by any means. Brian asked Rob S. what was happening in his organization as the one CIO on the panel. He said he first got a lot of cautious concerns from legal about liability. However, they have moved past this now. They are doing crowd sourcing. They are also looking at external and internal information in their auto group to look at patterns and make predicts.
Brian asked more about why the adoption has been slow. On one end, some managers are just doing it because their boss asked them to do it. Then people get involved to their surprise but felt no one was listening and abandoned it. On the other end, some companies have gotten away from simply listening to the intuition of the top guys and letting the data help drive decisions. These companies can be very effective. It is the difference between medicine men and modern doctors.
Brian said that a top guy might read an airline magazine on Web 2.0 and demand one. This feeds into the blind movement approach described above. Rob S. said that they turned things over to the data guys in his firm. They were also driven by a business value rather than simply “checking the box” for participation. Andy said that simply saying here is the new best way will not work.
Adam said that often it is the marketing guys and the IT guys that first get involved and they do not like each other. They have different goals. The marketing guys want it now. The IT guys see all this unstructured data and chaos. There needs to be a common ground and understanding here to overcome these differences.
Rob S. said that pattern analysis is a big shift in how they look at data. This is a cultural change that needs to take place. They need to move from looking backward to looking forward.
One audience member asked about how to overcome noise and avoid collective stupidity when you open up conversations. Adam offered an example from the game world. There is a large and noisy audience in the online game world that often chants garbage. However, one company enables everyone to feel loved. Make sure you listen to the good stuff and implement it. To the others say you offered good stuff but we are not doing it now. Andy said you should just exile the bad behaviors if you are within a business. Rob L. said they are trying to measure the intelligence of groups. If groups take turns they are smarter. Women are better at this so if groups have more women they are often better.
How do you handle all the different collection of resources? Andy said the bad approach is to act like a librarian and manage these resources. Andy said the good way is simply have an open ended Q & A mechanism that is open to all and it will self-organize. A rating system really helps as people like recognition. Perhaps this is the American Idol approach.
How do you promote executive sponsorship and generate adoption? Rob S. said you have to overcome the cultural issues first. Especially if there is a need to avoid asking questions because you are supposed to already have the answers. Andy said that the outside world is helping here because of the success of Web 2.0. Also “weak ties” are very valuable and now these tools support the connections with weak ties.