Friday, 18 November 2011

Collective Intelligence – we do this

A growing international market is there to be won by creative ... businesses that are able to innovate and do not see any inherent conflict between creative excellence and commercial success.
This quote from a NESTA (National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts) report, Creating Growth, 2006 started our first chapter in Managing Interactive Media in 2007. We wondered what this "independent body with a mission to make the UK more innovative" was covering now, so we took a look at them at: www.nesta.org.uk

This proved to be timely as they are spawning some interesting events for the UK iMedia Industry now under the Silicon Valley comes to the UK 2011 16th-19th November with many speakers including representatives from Google, Linkedin, Nokia, MySpace, and venture capital firms. (Note the social media and open information site bias)

This is a strategic-focused UK company that hasn't really taken on the wider iMedia Industry difficulties as we have struggled in the past and continue to do so with recognition of the technology-led, inter-disciplinary nature of what we do, but they have latched onto interactive segments like social media and gaming. We're glad to see they are beginning to broaden their perspective.

They have a draft report online where they invite comments. See Draft Discussion paper on Collective Intelligence October 2011.

We have to admit that the draft paper is VERY HEAVY STUFF. Don't think you can just skim it at all; you get nothing that way. It isn't web-friendly reading and obeys none of the tacit rules we know offer better absorbtion rates for electronic information. (They are actually wanting to study the effects of large amounts of data on "entrepreneurial cognition and creativity" ... Page 26). But, if you persevere, in bite-sized pieces over some time, some of the paper might begin to make sense. Their hearts are in the right place, probably. Please contribute for our industry's sake.

Collective Intelligence is seen as a strong contributory factor to the success of innovative companies who are driven by technology. It is defined tentatively as an attribute of groups and systems of people that enables them to employ their distributed intellectual faculties to behave more as if they were a single agent, thus generating outcomes beyond what could be achieved by their participants. Actually it seems to characterise the popularised Star Trek 'Borg' behaviour more than anything else, don't you think.

Getting serious here, we reckon that we have had to listen and learn from our diverse group of specialists – interface designers, programmers, graphics designers, interactive marketers, learning technologists, users, and so on - depending on the type of interactive project and technology platforms we have had to deal with. We've been doing this for years and have had to recognise each wave of tech-savvy response from the 'collective' user to affect our design and interaction models just to keep ahead. This intelligence hasn't been gleaned from traditional educational methods but from close contact and street-wise (web-wise or interactive-wise?) gut-feel initially, followed up by digital market statistics later.

There is some recognition of a team's and organisation's role in this 'collective intelligence' analysis on Page 17 of the NESTA document where what we're doing features as visible at the micro level. There's a meso level applied to industries, regions and communities, and the macro level of whole economies and societies, mankind (hello flowers, hello trees!).

Then there is a light-bulb moment on Page 18 where they ask some fundamental questions that we know some of the answers to, don't we?
  • "How do you run an effective innovation team?"
  • "How do you organise an institution or cluster to improve its Collective Intelligence for innovation?"
But they don't want to rate some of our comments because we may be sullied by a bias out of the need to apply innovation to make money: 'commercial' seems to be a dirty word for some of this document which is strange given that collective intelligence is meant to lead to innovative, creative companies that venture capitalists want to back. Maybe they need to be a bit more explicit about the type of companies they mean by these next comments:
“Finally, there is the work carried out by management consultants and technology providers who design, implement and support organisational models and technologies supposed to enhance aspects of Collective Intelligence. Their work is eminently practical, but the knowledge that they generate is not generally available publicly, and where it is should be taken with a grain of salt because of their commercial interest in this area.” (Page 20)
Complex this paper is. But, at least it shows thought for where we are heading in the technological maelstrom. We've often pointed out that we lack the time to think any more. The type of intelligence has changed with the territory. Can and should we continue to apply the old models of analysis/intelligence? Now there's a thought.

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