5 ways to maximize collective intelligence in a flexible work environment

Executive Summary:

Flexible work model environments have both positive and negative aspects. It is important to keep employees, hire new talent, and improve productivity and cost efficiency. However, these actions can also lower team engagement, which is crucial for success. The hybrid workspace should not eliminate teamwork.

Collective Intelligence (CI) is a way for teams to interact effectively and stay engaged while working remotely in different locations. This article deep dives into what collective intelligence is, its use in maximizing productivity when team members are apart, and its positive impact on company success.

CI is the practice of people coming together to share their knowledge, data, and skills to tackle societal issues as a collective. Contrary to popular belief, individuals can apply collective intelligence in remote work, and not just in small teams. The following are the ways you can adapt CI in a hybrid work environment:

  1. Engage with your team members to co-develop multiple projects. Remember to engage in teamwork during the decision-making process.
  2. Another point is crowdsourcing. Perfect for remote work environments, it entails collecting input from the public while engaging your team in decision-making.
  3. Conduct co-creation discussions and challenges with other managers, executives, and business partners for input in project development and problem-solving.
  4. Use collaborative tools to brainstorm, solve problems, and make decisions in your flexible work environment.
  5. Allow your teams to work asynchronously while using online platforms. Encourage teamwork, engagement, assign tasks with clear deadlines, and don’t forget to keep things transparent.

You cannot deny that a flexible work environment has both pros and cons. Sure, it helps you retain valuable staff members who are big on flexible schedules and personal time. It also helps you attract more top-talent team members to join your company.

Additionally, your team members and the company will experience increased productivity. There are ways to make your work environment both cost-efficient and less stressful for your teams. 

But what about the cons? 

If there’s any disadvantage that could result from flexible workspaces, it’s the possibility of a breakup in team engagement.

Now, don’t get things mixed up. As managers, it's a real nightmare to admit that the new flexible work model can kill team engagement. An engaged team is vital for a company's success. It directly impacts performance, productivity, and turnover, and this is no exaggeration. A publication on Forbes supports this claim, emphasizing how team engagement is essential.

A flexible work environment should definitely not eliminate team engagement. However, the continuous process of having your team members come in and out of the office at will, whenever, could drastically change the way the team members interact. Fortunately, there’s a way out — Collective Intelligence (CI). In this article, you’ll better understand what collective intelligence is and how you can maximize it in a flexible work environment for better teamwork, team engagement, and positive company success stories.

What exactly is a flexible work environment?

Another word for a flexible work environment is a hybrid workspace or hybrid work environment. You can also refer to the model known as the ‘in-office with remote work model’. Multiple companies have started adopting the hybrid work model since the pandemic.

While you can choose the peculiarities of hybrid work, there are some things you might not be able to control. One of these is how transitioning to remote work has affected teams in terms of their work dynamics and collective thinking.

How has hybrid work transformed teamwork?

As a team, there are three ways a hybrid workspace can alter the way your team members think and work collectively:

Team members can now work with people from all over the world

Nowadays, location is not a problem anymore. This means as a manager, you can oversee team members from different countries

Sure, there’s diversity. But it can also pose communication and synchronization challenges. While the team members in the office all get information at once, it might take longer for the same information to reach people across the border.

Collaborative tools have become essential for team members

Regarding how people work in a hybrid workspace, there’s a huge reliance on digital collaboration tools

For instance, the Klaxoon visual platform provides project management software, communication platforms, and virtual meeting tools to help you better manage your team members and their workflow. However, it is essential to ensure that all your team members, regardless of their location, are adequately trained in using these collaboration tools.

Team members get used to work autonomously

In a hybrid work environment, individuals have more autonomy and responsibility for managing their work. Team leaders reduce direct supervision and encourage team members to be self-motivated, proactive, and accountable. However, while hybrid work promotes autonomy and trust, it also has drawbacks.

But first, let’s talk about collective intelligence and what it means.

What exactly is collective intelligence?

There are straightforward definitions for collective intelligence. One of them is given by the National Endowment for Science, Technology, and the Arts (NESTA). They define collective intelligence as the method by which a considerable group of individuals (in this case, your team members) come together to communicate and share what they know, the information they have, and the skills they possess, all to provide solutions to societal issues. It is about tackling a problem as a group instead of leaving the work to a single person.

The best part about collective intelligence (CI) is that the concept has been around for many years now. Though the concept only started gaining recognition recently because of the increased effect of digital technologies. But the term was first mentioned in 1994 in a book published by a French philosopher named Pierre Lévy.

In his book, "Collective Intelligence: Mankind's Emerging World in Cyberspace," Lévy talked about the powerful potential of group work, collective thinking, and collaboration in the transformation of any idea, concept, organization, or the world at large. He argued that if a company can maximize the effects of collective intelligence, then it can transcend cultural and geographical boundaries, beating those that have yet to adopt this strategy.

Collective intelligence is not limited to size or working sphere 

A common misconception is that CI is limited to companies with a small number of team members. Because how would a manager in charge of over a thousand individuals call a group meeting for collaborative problem-solving

It turns out there’s a way to go about it—and yes; collective intelligence is not limited to size or working sphere.

How can collective intelligence be valid in any context?

In small teams, the manager can call the team members together for a meeting (virtual or in-person), throw out the problem, and in a given time, the collective knowledge and contributions are submitted.

In cross functional teams, collective intelligence can be generated in different disciplines or areas of expertise. By combining their specialized knowledge and perspectives, team members can approach problems from diverse angles, leading to more comprehensive solutions and breakthrough innovations.

Further, did you know that collective intelligence can extend beyond traditional team boundaries? Like the hybrid workspace, open collaboration platforms and communities, such as open-source software development or crowdsourcing initiatives, bring together many individuals with different backgrounds and expertise

Through the shared knowledge and contributions, these communities collectively create, improve, and innovate. As a manager in your company, you can witness the emergence of powerful solutions and advancements.

Not to mention that collective intelligence can also operate on a global scale. Through interconnected networks and digital platforms, individuals from different parts of the world can come together to collaborate, share insights, and solve global challenges.

5 ways to adapt collective intelligence in a hybrid environment

As it is, the most significant form of intelligence is a combination of human and computer intelligence known as collective intelligence. 

Yet, many organizations have yet to fully recognize the immense potential of this untapped resource. By fostering an environment that encourages the integration of both people and digital tools, you can unlock higher productivity levels and creativity within your team members. 

Your team can leverage vast information and knowledge related to their systems, processes, products, and customers. You’d also be able to provide them with a significant voice within the organization, promoting engaged workforces and fostering a culture of collaboration and innovation. 

But that’s not all about collective intelligence. Here are the other ways you can maximize CI for your hybrid workspace.

Co-develop something together as a team

The number one and most obvious way to adapt collective intelligence is to co-develop

Instead of trying to do it all by yourself or delegating separate tasks to each team member, you can bring everyone on board to work on a new project. That’s co-development

All you need to do is say what it’s for and why it’s needed. Then, set the best environment for your team members to work. Ready-to-use templates can make this easy for you and your team members, and you can check out some of these templates in the Klaxoon template library

But remember, you also have to incorporate peering into this strategy. Peering means that everyone relies on each other’s intelligence to get the work approved instead of waiting only on you to approve or reject the project or development. In other words, the team members or anyone involved in the group development team will also be involved during the decision-making process.

Allow your team to crowdsource

Crowdsourcing takes things to a whole different level. It’s like moving out of your company's comfort zone and into the public space for the ultimate in collective intelligence and teamwork. 

So, what is crowdsourcing? Crowdsourcing involves the collection of data, ideas, opinions, or information from a large group of people who are not part of your company. Note that this is a task to be performed by your team members. Task them with the job of crowdsourcing in groups, for any of your work objectives that is not confidential or sensitive. Then, just as in the first point, they also have to collaborate and decide on the best option to take based on the information they have received. 

Note the difference between this point and the last one: here, your team isn’t the one thinking. But you have given them the task of deciding together as a team.

Raise the ban on open innovation

Do you know how Starbucks gets its new recipes? Through open innovation

Many companies make use of this collective intelligence format, but they don’t know it. You could have used it once or twice before, but it’s time to know its real name. 

Open innovation is like crowdsourcing, but wider and more precise. Instead of gathering information from just anyone willing to contribute (which has its benefits of diversity and rawness), this method involves gathering information from co-companies, other business partners, established partners, co-creation competitions, and so much more. But as always, don’t forget to keep your team in the loop.

Rely on collaborative tools

Collaborative tools are the number one digital way of working that will bring your flexible team members into one space. 

As an example, getting your team to gather in one place for a brainstorming session might be difficult. But with collaborative tools, you can try countless brainstorming, problem-solving, and decision-making methods that you can work on with your team members. You can also get more insights into the Klaxoon collaborative tools that get you started right away.

Adopt and balance out asynchronous teamwork

On the surface, asynchronous work might be the opposite of teamwork because it involves allowing your team members to work independently of each other

But there is a way to work around the concept while keeping team engagement in mind. One of the ways to do this is to get everyone on board an online platform, encourage everyone to drop comments and ideas during their free time (but with a clear deadline), open up problems or information to people in the group, encourage transparency, and overall, don’t forget to keep track of the ideas brought in by your team members.

All-in-all, collective intelligence is a very crucial tool for company success, ease of management, faster decision-making, and efficient teamwork. The best part is that collective intelligence can be adopted regardless of the team size or the working sphere. So, benefit from any opportunity to learn from it and put it into practice!

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