Collective Intelligence and Parallel Dialogue

I’ve read two different concepts in several blogs this week that I think are related: collective intelligence and the levels of dialogue happening through blogs.

First, Kathy Sierra wrote about the difference between “collective intelligence” and the “dumbness of crowds.” Essentially, groups working towards consensus and trying to keep all parties happy aren’t innovative: they create things that are moderate in all respects. Groupthink happens and people don’t take the right risks. That’s the dumbness of crowds. True collective intelligence, on the other hand, is a lot of individuals providing input and sharing personal innovations. The value of the collective intelligence is that the best ideas of individuals are collected together and shared, even when they disagree. Individuals can innovate, and other individuals know about it and evaluate the innovations and build on them to create their own innovations. Kathy says, “Art isn’t made by committee. Great design isn’t made by consensus.” The wisdom of the crowd isn’t created by making everyone in the crowd the think exactly the same; it’s by allowing everyone with all their differences and disagreements into the crowd and letting them have a voice.

George Siemens compared direct and parallel dialogue in blogs.

Blogs allow for two significant levels of dialogue:

  • Direct – author and reader interact in comments – a model where the author still maintains control to delete or filter unflattering comments
  • Parallel – author interacts with authors of other blogs through his own blog. Someone writes something on their blog in response to what I write here…and I can reply in parallel conversation on this blog. We essentially write in awareness of each other, even though we do not directly engage in dialogue.

He doesn’t use the same words as Kathy, but I see part of the same ideas in his post. Parallel dialogue allows people to maintain their individuality while still interacting and sharing their personal innovations. George wrote, “I cannot silence anyone’s voice today. Dialogue happens regardless of my urge to stifle criticism of my ideas.”

Does anyone else see the connection between Siemens’ “parallel dialogue” and Sierra’s “collective intelligence”? Is the parallel dialogue the best way to harness this collective intelligence? If not, what’s a better way?

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