Making Insights More Accessible and Actionable with Open Source, Collective and Collaborative Intelligence

by Patrick Van Bueren 24 April 2014

Image by Liz Jones


In our personal life, we already embrace open source (i.e. online), collective and collaborative intelligence solutions and use them to access on-demand information and insights.


Notable examples are Wikipedia, World Bank, OECD, Yelp, TripAdvisor, Quora, Climate CoLab, and Peer-To-Patent, as well as games such as The Sims, Second Life and many other crowdsourcing applications.


Although most online solutions used in our personal life operate based on basic pattern recognition, we see a strong evolution towards collective and collaborative intelligence. Where collective intelligence is knowledge collected and generally made available to all members of a community, it is still being utilised in passive form. It merely provides the past and present, without considering exceptions or predictive events.


Collaborative intelligence is more focused on discovery, co-evolution and integration. It harvests on different disciplines, accesses unique expertise of individual contributors and takes predictive events into consideration, be it one-off or recurring events, planned or not.


Because of this shift, we win time and become more efficient, but more importantly we allow ourselves to make better and more informed decisions—decisions that we often need to make quicker and more frequently, due to an increasing pace and volatility in our lives that we deal with on a daily basis.


By contrast, we do not see the same utilisation and adaptation of open source, collective and collaborative intelligence solutions by many small, medium and large businesses.


Although most companies use business intelligence and analytical solutions, (social) media monitoring tools, online news subscriptions, research databases and Enterprise Social Networks like Yammer, Jive and Chatter, their ability to actually convert information into actions and outcomes is often lacking. Moreover, their ability to collect, analyse and share insights across different business areas, supply chain partners or even peer businesses, who operate in the same or similar competitive landscape is deficient.


This deficiency stems from a variety of reasons. But in essence, most companies are simply unaware of the power of open source, collective and collaborative intelligence solutions.


To provide a very basic case study, in an average workweek, a worker will more or less spend 7.6 hours searching and gathering information on search engines like Google, where he or she may not go further than the first two pages. By using specific Google search operators, which most workers are unfamiliar with, the results can be filtered down to one's exact needs without wasting time. Many different search operators already exist today, such as those implemented in file types, in URLs, words in titles, specific date ranges, etc.


For instance, to find all PDF documents published (i.e. indexed by Google) on Telstra’s website between 1 January and 31 March 2014, the search query would be filetype:pdf daterange:2456658-2456748. The date range would have to be indicated in Julian dates, not calendar dates. In this basic scenario, a 5% efficiency would buy-back 2.5 workdays per worker per year. Imagine the increase of productivity if we further enhance and automate the information searching and gathering through technology.


Aside from unfamiliarity, another reason why many companies are unable to convert information into actions and outcomes is due to their inability to become more outward-oriented, despite the fact that most businesses agree that change is mostly driven by external (competitive) forces. Other typical causes are related to the ongoing information overload (‘infobesity’), daily resource constraints and general reluctance towards business information sharing and collaboration.


Nevertheless, we have seen great examples of leading companies from different industries that recognise that innovation is driven by the ability of businesses to collaborate and cooperate to achieve outcomes. To name a few, Mercedes-Benz recently announced its partnership with smart watch maker Pebble for its connected car program. Apple partnered with Boeing to further develop aluminium-milling techniques for plane wings. Coca-Cola and Ford unveiled their collaboration around sustainable design by launching renewable materials for soft drink packaging and interior fabric of the Ford Fusion hybrid research vehicle.


To make information and insights more accessible and actionable, we believe the answer for many companies is relatively simple—they should better utilise and adapt to open source, collective and collaborative intelligence solutions. Just like in our personal lives, companies can become far more efficient in the collection, analyses and sharing of information and insights through technology. This will enable companies to make faster, better and more informed decisions–decisions that allow them to better adjust their resources to seize the right market opportunities and mitigate threats at the right time.


Although technology is a critical enabler, companies will have to embrace and empower openness, peering and collaboration between teams, departments, business units and peer businesses. True business success is not determined by having access to information and insights; it’s more so determined by one's ability to prioritise, act and adapt to ongoing changes in his competitive landscape.



If you liked this post, you might also want to read "Enhancing Innovation and Decision-making in Teams through Collaborative Intelligence."