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Harnessing Swarm Intelligence to Make the Sum Bigger than its Parts

Posted by Andy G. Schmidt on Jan 3, 2021 12:48:40 PM

What can we do differently to do better in engaging our employees?

Many bosses believe that valuable knowledge is concentrated in a very few heads. They assume that the key to making good decisions is finding that one right person who will have the answer.

The “genius” of the organization NEVER resides completely in management!

The best ideas will often come from far-flung corners of the community.

We are likely to incur an “ignorance tax” when we fail to consult the crowd before making important decisions.


❓ How do we make sure everyone with a great idea gets a chance to have it seen and heard ❓


Identify information bottlenecks

The pandemic exacerbated the existing information bottlenecks in organizations and created a number of new ones.

Analyzing how internal communication works - how information flows through your organization - identifies where these bottlenecks are and suggests how they can be resolved.

One way is with a Team App that reaches every employee. You build an inclusive workplace where the “genius” in your organization - residing among the people doing the work – can come out of the bottle. 

Beekeeper - Connected Workforce

Deep knowledge and big ideas are meant to be shared. When valuable information never gets disseminated it’s less useful than it otherwise would be.

Let diverse ideas flourish while your business prospers by removing information bottlenecks.


“The role of a leader is not to come up with all the great ideas. The role of a leader is to create an environment in which great ideas can happen.” – Simon Sinek



Copy from nature

A beehive survives on the basis of connection, cooperation, decentralization and aggregation. Made possible by the efforts and seamless communication of many individuals regardless of the intelligence of the individual members.

The reality: 🤦‍♂️
Large-scale change programs fail 70% of the time. The problem is that they are often initiated and managed from on-high but seldom supported by frontline staff – who will effect the change.

The solution: 🎯
Lead from the bottom up.
In any fast-changing scenario, insights from the front lines are what matter most.

If executives ignore the ideas and perspectives of workers who are actually in the thick of operations, they miss both the red flags that require attention and the innovative ideas necessary to meet this moment.

Information needs to flow freely and broadly within an organization, from one-on-one and small group communication all the way up to corporate messaging. Improving levels of access is key here, giving employees the opportunity to pose questions, raise issues and make suggestions directly with SENIOR leaders.

Technology is making this more possible. Open communication systems like Beekeeper are making it the norm.

It's your in-house crowdsourcing platform that allows anyone to participate and come up with suggestions. Then let them recruit their fellow rebels and launch the most popular suggestions.

Innovation is a team sport, not an individual process!

How many of your people have a chance to be on your innovation team?

Could it be all of them?

“Many ideas grow better when transplanted into another mind than the one where they sprang up.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes



Does information flow down ⏬ or up ⏫ in your organization?

In the book "In Search of Excellence", Tom Peters reprinted a remarkable chart from an unnamed company that showed how many different paths through the bureaucracy a new product idea would have to traverse before it could be accepted.

The number was 223.

With so many layers separating the ones in the executive suite from workers in the field, it was hard for top executives to know if the picture they had of their own corporation resembled reality.

I often wonder how many tens of billions of dollars are still being paid to management consultants to solve problems that low-wage line workers with direct experience have solutions for if senior management just listened and took their advice seriously.

Frontline Workers dorzibari clean

To state the obvious, unless leaders know what the truth is, it’s unlikely they’ll make the right decisions.

This means being honest about performance.

This means being honest about what’s not happening.

This means getting everyone's voice heard.

Unfortunately, there’s little evidence that this kind of sharing takes place bottom-up. “Inauthentic behavior” is actually the norm within most organizations. It’s remarkable that in an autocratic organization good ideas ever surface.

Leaders who understand the full abilities of their people are those that prioritize asking and listening over showing and telling. They use an online collaborative incubator for people to submit ideas and users with voting rights to vote on these ideas.

New ideas can be socialized across the team quickly and the combined knowledge of your people harnessed for better business results supported by higher employee engagement and retention.

Because the flow of information within organizations should never be dictated by management charts.


"The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance – it is the illusion of knowledge.” - Daniel J. Boorstin


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Topics: Employee Engagement, Internal Communications, Best Practice, Operational Efficiency

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