Leaders Should Encourage Emergent Intelligence

June 29, 2010 by  Filed under: Management 

By taking advantage of bottom-up decision making, leaders encourage a form of behavior called “emergent intelligence.” Emergent intelligence is the concept of research that studies how societies with complicated systems and organisms function.

One of the principles of emergent intelligence is that organisms which operate under a few basic rules have an evolutionary advantage. Ant colonies are cited as a prime example. A tantamount rule in ant society is that the queen be the only one who is not a multi-tasker. A second rule is: “Do what the ant next to you is doing.” A third is for outgoing foragers to give way to incoming ants carrying food. These three simple rules enable the colony to communicate and adapt to change very rapidly. The garbage is moved to the curb; then you find yourself searching for edibles. Because they operate this way, ant colonies adapt quickly to change and thus survive.

The success of developing an organization over time are insurmountable. It suggests that simple rules might be very powerful when applied to people. Applying the emergent intelligence theory to creation of Visa during the 1970s and was initiated by Dee Hock who informed a banker’s team of the valuable use of this tantamount principle~During the 1970s, Dee Hock, instructed a group of bankers to use the concept of emergent intelligence to invent the Visa~Applying the emergent intelligence theory to the creation of Visa during the 1970s, was initiated by Dee Hock who informed a banker’s team of the valuable use of this tantamount concept}. Banks within the local area had been given a multitude of credit cards – all different where no rule was the same for any at this juncture. Dee and his team wanted to create a single credit card and clearing mechanism that would allow seamless financial transactions around the world.

The concept that banks run independently under clearly defined regulations was thoroughly understood by Dee. So his team worked hard for more than a year to define those rules. The process of genius was this. Rule Number One was developed as the concept which states Keep What You Earn.” Banks that became Visa members would keep all but a tiny fraction of whatever fees or interest they generated.

The second rule was: “No limits on membership.” Any bank was free to join the Visa alliance.

The third rule related to ownership. Since the banks needed the freedom to operate independently, no one should “own” Visa. Visa was created with the idea of a corporation having non-stocks and member banks holding governance. Not one shareholder gained a speck of interest control in Visa as stock had not grown or developed, yet.

The final rule related to management. A separate company would manage Visa’s operations. Regional and executive boards would be required as answering systems for a fail safe check of sorts. Of the fees collected by the banks, a small fraction would go to this management company to take care of marketing, back office operations, reconciliation, and so forth. But it would not be in a position to “control” Visa. The flow of authority ran from institutions of members, an alternative method of this process. Visa was created to be a simple financial program albeit a few fine points in print. The hard work was in all the engagement and planning that preceded those operating rules. Thus a worldwide form of currency was born.

From this experience, Dee invented the term “chaordic” organization. It reflects his belief that successful organizations are “chaordic” in nature. By “chaordic” he means they walk a fine line between chaos and order. Making company decisions start at the top and proceed down in this systematic order. Chaos is represented by bottomup decision making. Dee views using equally values and vision that are clearly defined with down-to-earth operating concepts within organizations of a charordic nature. They also have clear systems for monitoring performance. Within that framework, people are left to create strategies and devise solutions as they see fit. It is a model that aligns perfectly with inspiring flow and building a high-performing organization.

Organizations that set these kinds of simple but profound rules enable their people to play on the waves of emergent intelligence. By investing in both trust and spark, by balancing order and chaos, they become capable of operating at light speed.

Learn more about emergent intelligence in the new book Leading at Light Speed, a must-read leadership book revealing 10 quantum leaps to build trust, spark innovation, and create a high-performing organization.

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Eric Douglas - EzineArticles Expert Author

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