MINDPOOL AND COLLECTIVE INTELLIGENCE: 1+1=3
Author: Gabriella Anesio
Soren Wiberg Holm, Head of Strategy & Operations and part of the Founding Team at Mindpool, explains the concept of collective intelligence in this interview. Soren communicates the necessity of tapping into, often overlooked, human intelligence within corporate structures, and mobilising this crowd-intelligence through the use of technology - creating endless possibilities for companies.
Mindpool is a startup which has caught the attention of many since its inception in just 2019. With a mission statement of activating and mobilising collective intelligence within companies, through the use of technology, Mindpool aids organisations by facilitating more insightful, efficient, and sustainable decision-making. By setting up mechanisms and processes through which the unbounded and untapped intelligence of employees can be communicated and transmitted to those in managerial positions, organisations are able to utilise, often omitted, internal resources which exist right under their own noses.
As a company founded on the basis of highly compelling research, Mindpool is dedicated to making the pursuit of collective intelligence tangible - tangible in the sense that the impressive and convincing research on collective intelligence can be genuinely converted into a pragmatic tool to be used in practice within existing corporate structures. Helping facilitate this process is the diverse experience and knowledge from all founders, and the rest of the excelling Mindpool team.
“Dr. Carina Antonia Hallin, one of our co-founders, has spent over 10 years researching crowd-predictions, and is one of the absolute best in the field. The rest of us came on with commercial backgrounds, creating a golden combination of commercial, operational, and research experience. For example, Mik Thobo-Carlsen, one of our other co-founders, is an experienced serial entrepreneur with extensive experience in building companies that scale. And then there is Bjarke Ingels, also co-founder, and very much a person that truly encompasses the notion of innovation and new ways of thinking. The common denominator is an experience of working with or in companies that really miss out by not tapping into their collective intelligence.”
Thus, what makes Mindpool so unique as an organisation is its ability to leverage an array of competences from an array of fields, with all research being grounded in the reality of organisations and their decision-making processes.
The most logical starting point for this interview was asking Soren what collective intelligence actually means and entails. As a dense and complex term, the Mindpool team views it as imperative to be able to condense collective intelligence into an unambiguous and observable phenomenon, leading to the following definition:
“Collective intelligence is really what we would label an emergent property - a resource that emerges from combining intelligence of groups that can be used for a lot of things, including predicting, solving problems, or discovering new ideas. To me, collective intelligence is the use of distributed human intelligence that is augmented by technology and used for powerful decision-making - it’s the power of combined human and technological capabilities for making better and more informed decisions.”
To boil this definition down into a simplified equation: aggregated human intelligence + technology = collective intelligence, which helps navigate complex organisational cogitation, innovation, and prediction. As such, Mindpool is not only a tool for agglomerating data from employees within a company, it’s also a tool for providing solutions for the most critical decisions that have to be made.
However, as Soren points out, collective intelligence is not a means to an end. It’s not something designed to be implemented on a one-off occasion. To truly grasp the full potential of the power of combined internal human intelligence, the process of aggregating, processing, and presenting data has to be iterative. This means that the process of garnering collective intelligence has to manifest within the corporate structure - that’s what makes mindpooling sustainable.
Making sure mindpooling is integrated into the processes of organisations has both intrinsic and instrumental value. Intrinsic value refers to something valuable in and of itself, whereas instrumental value has connotations of producing value externally of the “thing” in question - in this case, collective intelligence vis-à-vis Mindpool’s platform.
Instrumentally, Mindpool offers, as aforementioned, a tool for aggregating, processing, and presenting data - transforming quantitative and qualitative information into predictions and insights with tangible actions for companies. However, the value of the platform doesn’t just end here. In addition to practical and perceptible impacts aiding decision-making, collective intelligence is also, arguably, inherently a tool with unmatched value. Aggregating information from employees across an organisation means the actual process of collective intelligence in itself produces new heights of employee engagement and feelings of worthiness. As Soren summarises:
“Employees are used to being asked about how they feel, if they’re happy being in the company, and what they think of their boss or manager. But with our tool, they’re being asked to contribute with important business insights, what their predictions are for business performance, and why they think this. It creates an extreme facilitation of feeling and being a valuable part of the company and knowing that input matters. So even though we’re not an engagement tool, it’s a significant secondary benefit of activating people for business insights and decision-making.”
Of course, anyone could argue that the effect of employee engagement is just as much an example of instrumental value as intrinsic value. However, to the people who believe this, I would say the following: collective intelligence doesn’t precede employee engagement, it simply is employee engagement.
“So whose minds are being pooled through the use of Mindpool?”, any inquisitive mind would ask.
“Any group of people, organization, or parts of a company really have valuable collective intelligence. To give you one concrete example, the frontline is especially relevant - and perhaps the MOST fruitful sources of intelligence, as they are the ones often siloed, unasked, and untapped. Let’s consider a bank - a bank has perhaps 2000 employees on the frontline, which include customer service or sales. Imagine the interactions that these employees experience everyday: talking to customers, clients, stakeholders etc. When they have these interactions, they pick up on what’s called tacit knowledge - hidden knowledge, that relates to intuition. These could be things like whether people are taking money out of the bank because they’re nervous about safety, or because they’re looking at competitors for new solutions. In addition, frontline employees often have a highly relevant understanding of issues, problems, and potential solutions to these.”
This knowledge shouldn’t remain untapped knowledge - tacit knowledge has an abundance of crucial and invaluable information that, when aggregated, can become a powerful tool to guide predictions, insights, and any decision-making.
The problem with this knowledge - the reason why it is so under-utilised - is that finding an efficient method to collect and process this information is incredibly difficult. That’s why Mindpool decided to come up with a solution for it through the development of their platform.
“There’s so much to this untapped knowledge, that if you went to a frontline employee, they would often not know what to tell you or where to begin. You wouldn’t be able to ask them to write up a report for management. What you can do with Mindpool is aggregate this information and funnel it up to the decision-makers, presenting a frictionless and intuitive flow for the frontline to pass information through. After aggregating this information, the Mindpool tools, methods, and algorithms process this data for decision-makers so they can use it in a tangible way.”
The collective action problem is a scenario that has long been used to exemplify the problems that arise within groups working towards the same goal. One of the main problems is that, oftentimes, individuals don’t view their individual contributions as holding enough weight to impact the outcome (as long as others contribute), and, thus, they simply don’t contribute. Though organisations don’t necessarily suffer from this collective action problem in a strict sense, comparison to this scenario is still valuable because it highlights the importance of people believing their individual opinions, insights, or actions do in fact matter.
Soren makes this explicit through talking about how integral the function of feedback loops are. This, also, links back to the importance of mindpooling being an iterative process. To summarise this, imagine the following scenario: you work in the customer service department of an insurance company, and you’re asked about your predictions for the next quarter. After giving your insights and contributions, you have no clue where your information went, how the information you provided impacted those at the top in any way, or whether decisions were taken in consideration of, or despite of, the insights you gave.
To truly integrate collective intelligence as a sustainable mechanism within organisations, transparency and feedback need to be embedded in every step - which is what Mindpool has done with thoughtfully developed feedback loops. As Soren says:
“The feedback loops are super important. On our platform, we have both respondents and managers who can look at and use the data in specific ways. But the loops between these two entities are vital. The way that data is fed back, acted upon and communicated makes a crucial difference. If employees don’t have a good experience with these different aspects of the process, then the quality of data decreases and the participation levels become an issue to the point where it doesn’t matter how complex our algorithms are on the backend.”
The difference between an employee who knows their insights were taken into consideration (and maybe even incorporated into decision-making) and an employee who has no idea where their forecasts ended up is the difference between an engaged employee and a disconnected one. The former is much more likely to not just keep giving their insights, but also to want to keep giving their insights. And this contributes to what Mindpool calls the ‘corporate/collective IQ’.
Soren explains that Mindpool has several mechanisms that are to be set in place overtime to ease the process of aggregating collective intelligence and ensuring its longevity within corporate structures. One of these mechanisms is measuring and providing an organizational-individual and changing ‘corporate IQ’.
“It’s a measurement of how good an organisation is at mobilising the collective intelligence of their company. This measure has several different parameters to determine whether a company has a higher or lower level of ‘corporate IQ’, such as diversity in answers and demographics, the frequency and level of response, how much people are participating etc. Then based on this, we aim to provide organisations with an assessment of how successful they are at tapping into the collective intelligence of their employees. If the CIQ is dropping, there’s an issue - and we will try to provide advice to ensure organisations are performing to their best ability to utilise the inputs from across the organisation.”
As Soren explains, the process of mindpooling is of little worth if mechanisms, like the one above, are not set in place to make sure all processes are as frictionless and efficient as possible. This is exactly the same principle behind the justification for integrating feedback loops - without this, the complexity of algorithms and data processing hold little value. Communication and transparency; these are the two pillars acting as the foundation of Mindpool’s platform.
The beauty of all of this is that all knowledge, information, input - however you want to refer to it - is internal. It’s literally an untapped resource manifested within an organisation (the only external element being the Mindpool platform, designed to unlock and mobilise all this wealth of intelligence). To put things into perspective, in 2018, companies from across the world spent an aggregated amount of over $150 billion on consulting services. The cost of mobilising internal, tacit, knowledge, through the use of Mindpool, would be less than a perceivable fraction of this cost.
However, Soren notes that it’s important to remember that:
“We don’t claim that Mindpool directly has to replace existing processes or data collection, we simply claim it’s a very powerful supplementary source of information for organizations.”
The ingenuity of this is that this ‘supplementary source of information’ is coming from sources right under your nose - it’s coming from all of the employees that make up the organisation in question, and, thus, have a bountiful supply of relevant information.
At the end of the day, all the work that Mindpool is carrying out is enabled by the advanced technology that we’re surrounded by today. This emerging tech is a strong topic of interest for Soren, and something that has motivated his interest in collective intelligence:
“My background is in strategy consulting, but tech, especially emerging tech, was a large touchpoint. The combination of technology and our complex human intelligence seems like a no-brainer. So with the power of tech, and the power of the human mind - why are we not doing more to combine the two? If we can augment human intelligence with tech, then we’re able to go much further than either or can do on its own. Tech and human intelligence shouldn’t work in parallel, they should be combined to tap into unlimited potential of humans.”
Collective intelligence, ultimately, has unbounded potential in the corporate world with regard to helping inform and influence decision-making. However, CI isn’t constrained to the corporate world, necessarily, Soren points out. The notion of “democratising access to knowledge”, as Soren puts it, should be utilised on all levels throughout society:
“Mindpooling allows us to tap into a deeper collective level of knowledge - you can imagine it as a 1+1=3 scenario. The phenomenon of the use of CI can take a lot of shapes and sizes, with the ability to influence decision-making on both a societal level, as well as an organisational level.”
To unleash all of this wealth of dormant knowledge - collective intelligence - is like discovering new perspectives, new approaches, new ideas etc. And if there’s one thing that Soren stresses, it’s this: “We should never forget the sheer capabilities of the human mind.”
I’d like to extend a very special thank you to Soren for taking the time to explain the importance of collective intelligence, as well as its unbounded potential. If you want to keep up with the Mindpool journey, find them on LinkedIn or their website. You can also reach out to Soren on LinkedIn!
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