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Collective Intelligence: We’re Better Together

Emily Niemiec

Of the many LongerDays selling points, one of the most important distinctions is that we work in a single, centralized office in gorgeous downtown Muskegon, Michigan.

If you’re like me, you need a designated workspace to be as productive as possible. Some others seem to do their best work from home, or from a coffee shop, or from the beach… Whether we’re all in the same office or all communicating through a company-wide chat program like Slack or Skype, it’s an undeniable fact from my perspective: we work better when we work together.

Individual Intelligence vs. Collective Intelligence

As individuals, our creative and problem solving output eventually hits a ceiling. There’s no cap to knowledge, of course, but a person only knows what they know at any given time. Emotionally intelligent folks will have a fairly universal reaction when this happens: they ask for help!

Assistance generally comes in the form of peers and coworkers. When I hit a roadblock, I’m likely to turn to someone who’s puzzled through something similar before. When we’re sharing experiences, we’re sharing knowledge – and that all adds to the pool of collective intelligence.

Collaboration is a crucial skill in a ton of professions. Programmers and developers use tools like GitHub to work collectively, share their ideas and code, and improve on others’ work. Musicians do it nearly constantly, calling upon mostly nonverbal cues to communicate. Here’s where it gets interesting… These nonverbal cues are processed using a whole different skillset: empathy and individual insight.

The Power of Emotional IQ

In a recent study, researchers found a correlation between individual smarts and collective smarts, but that it was less significant than expected. It turns out that just adding IQs and dividing the sum by the number of participants isn’t a true indication of how intelligent the group will be. Looking further down the rabbit hole, they discovered that the main indicator of group acumen is actually the average social perceptiveness (the ability to read others’ emotions and act on them, appropriately, in real time).

Gender plays a role in this phenomenon too. The study found that groups with higher numbers of women were more socially perceptive, and that those skills directly translated into a better overall group result – but that discovery comes with a disclaimer:

“…It may be that what is needed for a group to be collectively intelligent is a number of people who are high in social perceptiveness. And if a group is made up of highly socially perceptive people, then it may not matter much whether they are men or women.”

All this points back to something most of us know already: we do better work when we care.

The Emotional Investment of Amazing Work

I’m not always happy with “okay,” and I’m not generally satisfied with “good enough.” I’m also human, so my ideals are sometimes at odds with the actual cost of perfection.

Most of the time, though, I’m not concerned with perfection. We ask of our team the same things we ask of ourselves individually:

  • Give it your best effort. Especially when trying something new, give it your best shot. When you hit a brick wall, it’s okay (read: encouraged) to ask for help.
  • Find a space to care. It can be difficult to have an emotional tie to each and every one of our projects. Sometimes it just comes down to caring about how your work is perceived. If you’re actively trying to impress your colleagues or your client, you’re already doing your best work.
  • Make it better. If you can build upon what others have done, do that. If you can make something clearer, easier to read, more digestible, simpler… Do that. Even small improvements are still improvements.

We’re all in this together. Our team is here to make your business smoother, more efficient, and hopefully more profitable. Feel free to get in touch or drop a comment below if you have anything to add to the discussion!

For more on this topic, check out the You Are Not So Smart podcast episode that inspired it: Collective Intelligence


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