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By Joe Kay & Toby Lyons

Technology is transforming the modern workplace in many ways but the way we think together hasn’t changed in millenia.

Our collective thinking has always happened in meetings.

There are two evolutionary obstacles that prevent meetings from being an effective way to generate ideas and decide on the best course of action in the modern workplace:

1) Our human biases prevent us from making objective group decisions

2) Our primary motivations centre around ourselves and our families – not the long-term success of the organisation

While we can’t fight human evolution, we can develop the tools to help us overcome evolutionary obstacles.

In the same way the Wright Brothers were inspired by birds and built the plane; a tool that enables humans to fly, we were inspired by bees and designed Enswarm; a tool that enables humans to think more intelligently in teams.

Enswarm is defining a new category of digital tool, which we call Team Intelligence.

This article explains what the essential elements of Team Intelligence are, why they’re important, and how Enswarm – The Team Intelligence Platform – helps teams think more intelligently together in meetings.

There are two essential elements to Team Intelligence

1) It neutralises the human bias in a team

2) It motivates individuals to work towards team success

Part 1: Neutralising Human Bias in Teams

What Are Human Biases?

Human (or cognitive) biases, are the unconscious drivers that influence our judgement and allow rapid decision-making.There are over 150 identified biases that affect human thinking. They are a result of evolution; when our ancestors were hunting and gathering, they developed mental shortcuts over generations that helped them make quick decisions to keep them alive.

While our biases were useful in the Stone Age, they are not useful in the modern workplace.

Why Are Human Biases a Problem in the Workplace?

They prevent us from being objective

They cause groupthink and office politics

They cause irrational individual behaviour

They affect our group decision-making

Examples of Bias in Meetings

Individuals only focussing on information that confirms their beliefs (Confirmation Bias)

Individuals believing the opinions of their own team are superior (In-Group Bias)

People becoming fixated on one point while missing the bigger picture (Anchoring)

Individuals going along with the group consensus without thinking about it themselves (Bandwagon Effect)

How Enswarm Neutralises Human Bias in Teams

Enswarm temporarily hides the names of participants. This Unlocks Team Intelligence in a number of ways:

  • People are able to test “crazy ideas” or ask basic questions without worrying about social implications or the pressure of “looking stupid”
  • Team members add ideas, comments and questions independently without being affected by how many “likes” it will get – because our ratings are hidden
  • Individuals rate their team members content based on value without being influenced by names, hierarchy and figures of authority
  • Enswarm suits individual working preferences and different personality types. Because you’re not under pressure to speak, it gives introverts the space to think but still allows extroverts to externalise their thoughts
  • When you want to make a final decision, Enswarm’s algorithms aggregate the unbiased contributions of the team and present it as data
  • Teams use this data to make the best informed decisions on what actions to take


Part 2: Motivating Individuals towards Team Success

What is Motivation?

People are motivated both externally and internallyDan Pink describes external motivation as being the traditional model of carrot and stick incentives, while the more powerful internal motivation is achieved in three ways:

  1. Autonomy – The desire to direct our own lives
  2. Mastery — The urge to get continually better at something that matters
  3. Purpose — The yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves

The three aspects of internal motivation all link back to the evolutionary desire to improve the lives of ourselves and our families. We want to provide for our children and we want them to be proud of us. Internal motivation is therefore always stronger than external motivation.

Why is External Motivation a Problem in the Workplace?

In the modern workplace, it is normal for individuals to be externally motivated by periodic financial targets

It is natural for us to do what we can to achieve these targets, as that is how we maximise the benefit for ourselves and our families.

However, when individual incentives are not aligned with the success of the organisation, they cause individuals to behave in ways that benefit themselves, but can damage the business in the long-term.

We put our incentives ahead of organisational success

We compete with colleagues, engage in politics and form silos

We adjust deals to hit arbitrary deadlines

What Can Happen in Meetings and What is the Motivation?

We argue to ensure our own targets are hit, even if this causes more important work to be delayed (To maximise our bonus)

We petition for projects to be kept alive, because we don’t want our reputation to be damaged (Bonus and future promotion)

We argue for our ideas to be actioned rather than the best ideas (Competing with others for position in the hierarchy)

We do not challenge the ideas of our superiors even when we do not agree with them (To maximise our own success in the team)

We speak over people even when we have not got anything meaningful to say (To become more memorable)

How Enswarm Motivates Individuals to Work towards Team Success:

While Enswarm’s interface does not show names, behind the scenes we attach all activity and ratings to a user’s profile. This Unlocks Team Intelligence in a number of ways:

  • Individual hard work towards the best possible team outcome is measured so can be recognised
  • The value that individuals add towards the success of team is measured based on other peoples ratings, so that value can be recognised
  • At the end of an Enswarm, the data on individual engagement and value-add towards team success are available
  • Therefore the only way to “win” in an Enswarm is to engage actively and work towards developing the best ideas to action
  • Over successive Enswarms, being able to see scores relating to your engagement and value-add starts to motivate people to work as hard as possible in a thoughtful way towards the team goal.
  • The vision is that over a period of time, these scores can be used to make peoples’ true value to an organisation tangible, objective and fair
  • If all people are given the opportunity to be fairly recognised for the value they add towards organisational success, we will see negative individual behaviours reduce and productive collaboration increase

Final thoughts

Two months into the pre-release stage of our launch, our first users are beginning to see the benefits of a tool that neutralises human bias and motivates individuals towards team success.

Early case studies have shown how teams are able to discuss ideas and decide on action faster, collaborate more effectively (both in-person and remotely), and reduce internal politics.

Enswarm allows teams to remove wasteful meetings and enhance the ones that really matter.

Enswarm’s users are transforming the way they think together – They are increasing their Team Intelligence.

We are looking forward to expand our case studies in the coming months, so sign up and start unlocking your Team’s Intelligence.