Posted onin Business Intelligence
Collective intelligence enables us to access and organize unprecedented amounts of information and thereby enlarge the universe of possible solutions. Companies have sought to gather information efficiently from all manner of sources to make decisions from almost the beginning of commercial history, but there have always been forces of entropy. The systems for data collection remain in place, but the company is in fact no longer open to fresh ideas, and it becomes a collapsing world of dwindling options and antiquated approaches. The new technologies of collective intelligence, however, represent countervailing forces. Information sharing and collaboration are ceasing to exist as mere options. They are instead competitive necessities. Many companies that have not begun thinking long and hard about cloud and crowd systems and how they can be strategically integrated into extant architectures are doomed. They will not be able to compete with those who have achieved unparalleled reach and efficiency in their information-gathering, access and storage processes. Undreamed of sources for wise counsel will multiply dramatically the availability of solutions.
Prophets of collective intelligence claim to have glimpsed a day, one not too far distant, when computers will have the upper hand. However, for the moment, it is best to recognize that trends are being identified, patterns interpreted, judgment exercised, and decisions made by human beings and that the goal now in bringing people and machines together is to relate them to maximally leverage strengths. The unskilled human operator of an extremely sophisticated machine is in a bad marriage. The right person with the right machine can accomplish more than the mere addition of one element to another might suggest. There is, properly related, a multiplier effect and, as Steve Rubinow recently remarked, “one and one make three”. There is real danger in getting relationships wrong. A computer is not at its best in a volatile informing context. Human judgment is needed for the timely modification of a business plan. Too much reliance upon machines can result in the application of old answers to today’s questions, and this is doubly dangerous in a world changing so rapidly that one needs to know not merely what one is about but also what one is to expect. Collective intelligence can be an invaluable keyhole onto the future, making it possible to more accurately than ever before trace out the trajectory of what is presently the merest blip.
Collective intelligence will naturally require a new mindset among business leaders. It has long been that large corporations could elbow competitors out of the marketplace by virtue of the vast data holdings brought to bear upon the point of decision. Collective intelligence throws this deeply established tendency into reverse. Indeed it is impossible except on the basis of maximum inclusion. There will naturally always be winners and losers in the free market, but information sharing and collaboration on this scale mean a truly pronounced leveling of the playing field. Theodore Dreiser’s capitalism is fast going the way of slash and burn agriculture. A central challenge will consist in systematizing the means for sorting the wheat from the chaff. A cloud can be hazy and a crowd hasty. Companies will want certain questions answered. What is the credibility of a given source of information? How are such vast quantities of data to be evaluated and rendered usable? What contributors sound viable but are in fact only noise? How are the authenticity and value of a contribution to be assessed? Whatever the answer to these questions, collective intelligence is no fad. If value can be embodied in a product that can be traced back to the technologies of collective intelligence, there will be no shortage of evangelists. The case will be made and businesses will adopt it—or perish (00-15).