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Better Collective Intelligence

Posted by Douglas A Wick on Mon, Jul 18, 2016

The Freak Advantage shared how your strengths even to an extreme provide an advantage for you an often to your business.

Lee Eliseian, President and CEO, Independent Floor Testing and Inspection is very detailed oriented and meticulous.

He’s always looking for an edge.  The practice of Collective Intelligence has frequently brought about great gains and impact to his concrete moisture testing company.

If a little is good, wouldn’t more be better he reasoned?

It’s like the question we asked in The Daily Double – Two Huddles Better Then One?

The_Secrets_Leaders_Keep.jpgLee attended a business meeting where author Amy K, The Secret Leaders Keep spoke about the value of Collective Intelligence.  Lee feels Collective Intelligence is the most important and impactful part of IFTI’s weekly meetings.  He wants invest even more time in this section of the meeting.   I meet with Amy to collect ideas and suggestions from her to improve the impact Collective Intelligence might have in IFTI’s weekly meetings.  Lee feels the weekly meeting format may have too much time invested in data download whereas the critical part of the meeting, Collective Intelligence would be more impactful with more time dedicated to it.  

Two weeks ago on a Friday I spoke to Amy K.

Amy recommends getting the data part of the meeting out ahead of time.   If the leadership team can input their data and review it prior to the meeting this would speed up this section of the meeting.   This is a recommendation Verne Harnish makes to focus on the red or yellow metrics, reducing time on green or super green metrics to commend or recognize only.

Amy recommends Collective Intelligence topics should be listed or specified prior to the meeting.  The meeting leader would then suggest the Big Question to Answer for the meeting ahead of time.

Collective Intelligence – One Question

Let’s look at an example Amy and I discussed since Lee and his leadership team discussed this in our last meeting. 

The question we wished to make our priority for our weekly meeting was:   How can we do Collective Intelligence better in our meetings?

As Amy suggests, as the leader of the meeting I sent an email to ask each leader to submit two questions that would be asked and answered in their opinion that would lead to answering this question. 

Have you ever led a meeting where you felt like you were the only one contributing?  It felt like no one else was engaged.  No one appeared motivated or inspired to share their feelings or ideas. 

In many cases this isn’t an indictment on your leadership skills or ability to lead a discussion.

It’s a function of the busyness of everyone’s commitments.  No one has made time to research and consider the question or topic. 

By sending an email asking participants to prepare two of questions to help answer the major question the meeting becomes “our” meeting versus just the leader’s or the person submitting the question.  Those attending the meeting are noodling on the question with their own questions.   This way they more than “show up” for the meeting, they are thinking about and contributing to it.


You’ve sent your question out to your team ahead of time.  What if the team doesn’t make time to come up with the questions?  Amy suggests instead of starting Collective Intelligence, pause and ask team members to individually create 2-3 questions around the main question.  After each team member has taken a few minutes to prepare their questions ask them to meet with another member.  Review their individual questions and determine in 5-7 minutes which of two questions from theirs to ask during the meeting.

In our meeting we did a version of this.  IFTI_Logo.pngRemember our main question:   Should we modify IFTI’s Collective Intelligence in our meetings?

The leadership team submitted the following questions to help us answer the larger question:

  • Why is what we are doing now better than what we're proposing to do?
  • In our current system does each item get the appropriate amount of time invested in it?
  • Does giving CI an hour a week give us enough time to get all our issues discussed?
  • Do we need to create a Collective Intelligence log of items for future discussion?
  • How do we communicate to the team prior to the meeting a Real Time CI issue?

Ultimately we decided to shorten our weekly meetings to allow 60 minutes (IFTI’s weekly meetings are 90 minutes).  We plan to have a time keeper to ensure the meetings stay on track and allow for the 60 minutes to engage in CI.  Everyone will submit their dashboard ahead of the meeting so we can start on time.  We will also track the time we spend in CI each week to make sure we are meeting the target we set.  (BTW:  For every Collective Intelligence item discussed a best practice is to document the DECISION that was made as a result of the discussion, complete with who is accountable and due date.)

This same suggestion can help enliven your quarterly and monthly meetings.  Amy offered one caution, if you do it too frequently, like so many things it can lose some of its impact. 


When I emailed Verne for his feedback on Amy K’s ideas he provided this feedback and reminders.  The BIG emphasis for the weekly meeting is to run it like a forum meeting – after warming up the brain with a round of good news and a review of the priorities and input from customers/employees (Align helps you do this in a few minutes) – then it’s one topic for 30 minutes.  And we emphasize that the daily is to clear out the various issues that can clog up the weekly. 

We’re also learning from Bezos’ experience at Amazon that he gives his senior team time on the front end of the meeting to read what has been sent out.  We can all assume people do it, but they often don’t.  I can extend the meeting 15 minutes, but worth it. 

Do you have ideas on how to improve Collective Intelligence?  Looking for ideas for help? Consider picking up Amy K’s The Secret Leaders KeepA special thanks to Amy K for taking time to meet with me and provide ideas on how to impact my customers CI. 


A recent email from SmartBrief on Leadership carried the headline: How to strike a balance between your job and your life.  My response:  DON’T.  We’ll explore balance and why expecting to have balance is a sure guarantee to achieve mediocrity. 

Topics: collective intelligence, Strategic Discipline, Execution, The Secrets Leaders Keep

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Doug Wick, President

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The Strategic Discipline Blog focuses on midsize business owners with a ravenous appetite to improve his or her leadership skills and business results.

Our 3 disciplines include:

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