groupchairs.jpg“If they see other successful people going into something, they don’t do the due diligence because they think someone else did it for them.”
 “Hotel Developer Lands in Red Ink Despite Boldface Names,” New York Times, August 31, 2008.

The intelligence of any unorganized group bears an inverse relationship to the number of people in the group.

This is especially true in small groups where the average intelligence or experience level is high. Everyone one tends to look around at the excellent credentials of those surrounding them and assume that someone else has done the work, someone else has crunched the numbers. Unfortunately, the person you are looking at when you think that is probably looking at you and thinking the same thing.

A variation is when we ascribe eminence in one field, say medicine or the sciences, and unabashedly assume that depth of skill, ability, and experience is transferable or 100 percent applicable to another field, such as business or government.

Yet another variation of this “halo affect” is the tendency for the glow of past glories to linger long after the original fire has turned to ashes. To wit, NASA of the 1960s that responded so adroitly to JFK’s challenge to “put a man on the moon within this decade” is a far cry from the varicose-veined NASA bureaucracy of today.

Properly led, understood, organized, and structured, groups can achieve amazing things. The cumulative power of such a group’s focused intelligence can be awesome. But organization does not happen by accident and rarely can the full potential of a group be realized in the absence of some effective, defining structure.

Closing Quotes:

“Bubbles and crashes are textbook examples of collective decision making gone wrong. In a bubble, all of the conditions that make groups intelligent——independence, diversity, private judgement——disappear.” – “The Wisdom of Crowds,” by James Surowiecki

“Collective intelligence emerges when a group of people work together effectively. Collective intelligence can be additive (each adds his or her part, which together form the whole) or it can be synergetic, where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” – “Groupware: Orchestrating the Emergence of Collective Intelligence,” by Trudy and Peter Johnson-Lenz

“If the individuals cooperate, they can generate collective intelligence. If workers in an organization share a common vision and/or an understanding of the functioning of the entire organization, they tend to self-organize in more collectively intelligent ways.” – “Thoughts on Wisdom and Collective Intelligence,” blog post by George Por