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Live from FEI 2013: Seek on Harnessing the Power of Collective Wisdom

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Both experientially and in research (Example 1; Example 2), crowdsourcing has shown itself to be very wise.  At last year's FEI conference, Seek did an exercise that asked people to come up with their toughest innovation problems and see which solutions other people could generate for them.  Between then and now, they distilled the collective pain points of the innovation world, and are seeking the wisdom of FEI attendees to solve the biggest problems in innovation.

From their activities last year, Seek distilled the results into four major categories of problems:

Design Thinking: How might we ensure that ideas are created based on the customers and their needs?
The Balance of Time: How do we create this kind of change when everyone is already stretched thin?
Repeatable Innovation System: How do we create an internal system that produces bigger and better ideas?
An Innovative Culture: How can we change the mentality and behavior of individuals in the organization so that we are all active and motivated contributors to bigger ideas?

A close look at the four categories reveals that there is no way to answer any question in the set without touching upon the other three.  Thus, at this FEI conference, Seek created the House of Guilds, in which groups of 8 (guilds) are trying to harness the power of group genius to identify the barriers to problems in these areas, and how they might be overcome.  To facilitate this process, Seek created a case that reflects the common issues in innovation, and each guild will submit a solution by end of day today (a partial version of a Nexus Sprint insofar as it harnesses the diversity embedded within the crowd and requires serious innovation in a short time).  Tomorrow, a panel of judges will select the top three cases, and the three top guilds will debate the merits of their solutions before the crowd, which will in turn vote on the winning guild.

Some of the deepest power in both last year's and this year's Seek endeavors is in the harnessing of empathy.  Rather than just answering questions in a more-cerebral, solution-focused fashion, the idea is to get a deep comprehension of the problem and jump into the challenges that people face so that the answer comes not just from one's intelligence and experience, but from understanding.  With this integrated foundation, it is eminently possible to harness the power of the collective to innovate, create, and bring forth the future.

Orin C. Davis is a positive psychology researcher and organizational consultant who focuses on enabling people to do and be their best.  His consulting work focuses on maximizing human capital and making workplaces great places to work, and his research focuses on self-actualization, flow, creativity, hypnosis, and mentoring. Dr. Davis is the principal investigator of the Quality of Life Laboratory and the Chief Science Officer of Self Spark. (@DrOrinDavis)

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