Collective Intelligence Vs. Collective Stupidity
Consultant and speaker Karl Albrecht - author or co-author of a number of books including Brain Power, Service America for the New Economy, and Service America!, which was a Soundview Executive Book Summary in 1985 - makes a plea for organizational intelligence in his latest offering, The Power of Minds at Work.
Too many companies, Albrecht declares, are wasting the human intelligence and talents of their employees. These companies might insist that "Our people make the difference." (The secondary party line being "We exist to serve our customers.") Don't believe them, writes Albrecht, for these slogans are just "mindless platitudes, pleasant bromides used to pacify those who seem to feel a growing sense of the impersonal in business."
Symptoms of Organizational Dysfunction
Through a variety of symptoms of organizational dysfunction - Attention Deficit Disorder, or the inability of senior management to focus on any one primary goal, strategy or problem, is but one of many examples - organizations reveal their collective stupidity, instead of their collective intelligence.
Yet collective intelligence, as opposed to collective stupidity, does exist, Albrecht writes. "The fact that I've seen much more collective stupidity - even stupidity incarnate - than I've seen organizational intelligence only tells me that it's difficult to achieve and sustain, not that it's impossible," he writes.
The Many Dimensions of Organizational Intelligences
Albrecht draws on the work of Howard Gardner who first identified the many types of intelligences of human beings (thus rejecting the traditional notion of one type of intelligence). According to Gardner, the seven ways of being smart include verbal-linguistic intelligence, logical-mathematical, spatial, musical, kinesthetic or sensorimotor, interpersonal, and intrapersonal or "emotion intelligence."
Organizations likewise have different types, or dimensions, of intelligences, Albrecht writes. The seven dimensions of organizational intelligence (OI) are:
- Strategic Vision. "Every organization needs a theory - a concept, an organizing principle, a definition of the destiny it seeks to fulfill," Albrecht explains. The organization's leaders must be able to answer questions such as, "Why do we exist?" and "Why should the world accept, appreciate and reward us for what we do?"
- Shared Fate. People in the organization must have a sense of common purpose and an understanding by individuals of their roles in the success of the enterprise. "Without a sense of shared fate, the psychological tone of the culture degenerates into a 'look out for number one' spirit," Albrecht writes.
- Appetite for Change. Change should represent challenge, opportunity for new and exciting experiences, and a chance to tackle something new.
- Heart. Heart involves the willingness to give more than expected. In organizations with heart, leaders have somehow managed to earn this extra effort on the part of the employee.
- Alignment and Congruence. The design of the organization and the organization's structures, systems, methods, processes, policies, rules and reward systems should push people in the direction of the organization's goal (not in the opposite direction).
- Knowledge Deployment. The ability to create, transform, organize, share and apply knowledge, information and data is key, Albrecht writes. Part of this ability is knowing how to "balance the conservation of sensitive information and the availability of information at key points of need."
- Performance Pressure. In companies with OI, the pressure to perform is not imposed from the top, Albrecht insists, but rather self-imposed by people throughout the organization.
Why Soundview Likes This Book
Drawing on his extensive experience and knowledge of the management consulting field, Albrecht offers a no-holds-barred account of what is wrong with companies today and what they need to do better. In separate chapters detailing the seven traits of OI, readers will find numerous takeaways - a checklist of management fads that don't work, the varieties of employee saboteurs, and the ten key components of work-life quality, are just a few. Jargon-free prose further enhances the practical value of The Power of Minds at Work.