School of orange fish

What is Collective Intelligence?

Yesterday I got a little bogged down in definitions, specifically I was thinking about “collective intelligence”.

I’ll guess many of us can come up with examples of where we’ve seen elements of it at work, from Wikipedia to Stack Overflow, but not wanting to go deep into details, I was looking for a short and simple definition.

Wikipedia itself provides us with a pretty good starting point:

“Collective intelligence (CI) is shared or group intelligence that emerges from the collaboration, collective efforts, and competition of many individuals and appears in consensus decision making.”

I then came across this from George Pór of Meridian University in a paper posted on the Blog of Collective Intelligence where he defines Collective Intelligence (CI) as:

“an emergent quality of social groups (of any size), which enables them to evolve towards higher-order harmony and complexity, through networks of interacting individual capacities and such innovation mechanisms as differentiation and integration.” 

Both definitions include the concept of “emergence”. I think CI has to have at its core an organic, emergent element, which is enabled through a network of interconnected nodes or individuals. I also like the idea that the group can “evolve” to reach an improved state or a better place.

Pór goes on to describe this as an ‘evolutionary’ lens where this emergent quality is what takes us beyond ‘wisdom of crowd’ and ‘additive’ thinking, where ‘two minds are better than one’.

So in borrowing from the two, I’ve come up with the following as an attempt at a succinct definition:

“Collective Intelligence (CI) is that which emerges from the networked collaboration, cooperation, and competition of a group enabling them to evolve towards an improved state.”

Does that cover it well enough, or are there other aspects that need to be captured?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!


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