No one human being created the car you drive, the computer on which you are reading this, even the last pencil you used. All were brought into being by a team of human beings, by collective intelligence, knowledge shared and accumulated over time.

If you think about it, it requires an incredible cultural and social process to conceive, propose, create, plan, design, mine, extract, synthesize, combine, manufacture, trade, transport, store, and market the goods and services we blithely consume daily. Before you knock technology or question the value of scientific progress, remember that we have doubled the human life span and cut child mortality by three-fourths in the last century. One hundred years ago, even an eighth grade education was an achievement and most homes were without running water or electricity. Today, most individuals in the industrialized world can draw upon the collective knowledge resources of the entire species at the click of a mouse, facilitating incredible innovation.

The path to greatness for any organization, for any individual, is to learn how to better share and access collective intelligence. The quality of our communication, both with ourselves and with others, directly and immediately impacts the quality of our performance and of our lives.

As a leader, as chair of an organization of more than 400 people spread over 40 locations, I am always looking for better ways to share information and knowledge:

How can the entire organization learn (quickly, effectively, efficiently) from the triumphs of any one team member?

How can the entire organization learn from the mistakes (without blaming or shaming) of any one team member?*

How can all access what is in the brain of one?

How can one access what is in the brain of all?

By no means do I have the answer to these questions. But I do know that it starts with a culture of open communication, as flat and non-hierarchical as possible where competency, creativity, and commitment are valued far above formal position.

* Creating team value from error: I celebrate the team member who cheerfully announces “fumbles” and the lesson learned along with a vow to not repeat. Such frank honesty creates trust and gives me confidence in the TM’s abilities.

See NSCBlog post, “Communicating with Integrity.”