My colleague and friend Deepak Patil recently published his doctoral dissertation. His topic was related to the Theory of Collective Intelligence. Think: the wisdom of bees, ants, migrating birds and whales, and even plants and trees. A kind of inner-knowing, without a whole lot of empirical evidence beyond the research and speculation of scientists that study systems and patterns. What my friend Deepak did was investigate an emerging application of this theory, to human organizations.
While doing his research Deepak uncovered some very interesting, fairly recent studies and subsequent conclusions about how Collective Intelligence functions in groups: allowing humans to come together more productively by exploring – among other things — the power of empathy, compassion, tolerance and something called “social perceptiveness”.
Why should we care about this? Because despite what our eyes and ears might be telling us at this very moment, Humans Beings – as a large and complex Tribe –actually have very positive tribal instincts. (I’m not referring here to the media’s version “tribalism”, which is more narrow in focus and typically pernicious.)
At the very depths of our being, we humans recognize the practical value of unity and cooperation. In the process of survival, the emotions and skill mentioned above become the “glue” that forges and cements relationships, ensuring that nurturing and protection is extended to all members of the tribe. This is the foundation of our Collective Intelligence as human beings. And even though it’s not exactly‘ on display’ in the world around us, it’s not just an ideal, or a dream. It’s evident, in studies that began (Carnegie Mellon Institute) back in 2010.
From what I’ve just learned from Deepak about the actual science of it, on a human level I think that Collective Intelligence could be casually defined as “what happens when we listen to our better angels.” Or, what happens when we try to stay in that “higher vibration” of daily living.
The Carnegie Mellon Institute (after its lengthy study of organizations worldwide), identified the presence of Collective Intelligence through a variety of assessments and observations. The resulting data indicated that significant Collective Intelligence could be identified and measured by three factors. The first was a high degree of Social Perceptiveness (the ability to read non-verbal cues); the second was the Distribution of Conversation (the degree of shared and transactional dialogue); and third was the Proportion of Females in the group (the higher number women, the stronger the Collective Intelligence.)
The full Carnegie Mellon study is much too detailed to summarize here, but I’ll offer my own takeaways: Our Collective Intelligence will, if we allow it, see us through our challenges as a Human Race. Also, when (not if) women are fully validated by global societies (females, by the way, scored much higher in Social Perceptiveness and in the facilitation of Conversation), we’ll experience how profoundly this benefits everyone.
Now: all we have to do is remember that we are better, stronger, smarter, happier and healthier when we are truly “Together”. Nothing else matters – arguments, divisions, disagreements – as much as this particular reality. It’s not really up for debate…is it?