The 5D Future of Work, Part One - Intelligence

collaboration communication intelligence organisation performance Mar 03, 2021
The 5D Future of Work, Part One - Intelligence

Written by Dr. Richard Claydon (With contributions by John Dobbin) | Illustration by Oscar Venhuis

The future of work is NOT the science of business administration. It lies in complexity science and a deep, broad and wide understanding of what it means to be human. 

 

Being Human: Types of Intelligence

There are many intense arguments about the nature of intelligence. One camp, underpinned by the work of Howard Gardner, argues that there are nine types of intelligence:

  1. Naturalist (nature smart)

  2. Musical (sound smart)

  3. Logical-mathematical (number/reasoning smart)

  4. Existential (life smart)

  5. Interpersonal (people smart)

  6. Bodily-kinesthetic (body smart)

  7. Linguistic (word smart)

  8. Intra-personal (self smart)

  9. Spatial (picture smart)

The other camp, promoted by the public intellectual Jordan Peterson, argues that there is only one type of intelligence (IQ), and that any challenge to its construct invalidates the usefulness of trait psychology, as it is, by far, the trait that most predicts a person’s future life and performance. In short, getting rid of IQ as a single testable construct makes psychometric tests meaningless. 

Within high-tech innovation, there is also the fetishisation of fluid intelligence over crystallized intelligence.  

  • Fluid intelligence involves being able to think and reason abstractly and solve problems. This ability is considered independent of learning, experience, and education.

  • Crystallized intelligence is based upon facts and rooted in experiences. As we age and accumulate new knowledge and understanding, crystallized intelligence becomes stronger.

For many years, scientists believed that fluid intelligence peaked at a very early age - before 30 - although that is being revised, with more recent research suggesting some aspects of fluid intelligence may peak as late as age 40. In contrast, crystallized intelligence may not peak until your 70s. 

As high-tech industries focus on developing innovative technologies and inventions, they believe they need to hire people possessing high levels of fluid intelligence. Firstly, because of the novel problem-solving aspect of high-tech innovation and, secondly, because they believe crystallized patterns of thinking can “get in the way” of such work. As such, if you are over 40 in a digitising industry and not in a position of power, you are at extreme risk of obsolescence. 


Conditions of Intelligence in Organisations

Now we’ve got the technical stuff out of the way, let's look at how intelligence gets applied in an organisational sense, and, in relation, how organisational conditions impact that application. It’s a two-way street. No matter how you define intelligence, if you cannot apply it to the best of your ability because of organisational conditions, testing for it is irrelevant. 

We also take seriously the Kenneth Blanchard observation that “none of us are as smart as all of us.”  For us, the highest echelons of intelligent work occur when groups of diverse people work together to explore complex situations in transdisciplinary ways. 

At this applied level, we believe there are five different conditions of intelligence at play in contemporary organisations.

  1. Extended Intelligence (EQ)

  2. Collective Intelligence (CQ)

  3. Individual Intelligence (IQ)

  4. Dramatic Intelligence (DQ)

  5. Fragmented Intelligence (FQ)

These “intelligences” also have an energy component. If you are in conditions constantly requiring constant application of dramatic intelligence, or are finding your intelligence to be fragementing, then it can take all your energy to keep your head above water. When applying individual intelligence to tasks, at times you will experience the energy-enhancing state of flow, and at other times frustration might drain energy away. Conditions of collective and extended intelligence are energy-enhancing. 

Starting at the bottom, let’s explore further. 


Fragmented Intelligence (FQ)

Fragmented Intelligence occurs in toxic, chaotic or intense organisational conditions that constantly impact the possibility of focussing or collaborating in extended and meaningful ways. Such conditions tend to manifest when linear industrial-era measurements of productivity clash with non-linear digital-era activities of performance (we’ll explain more in a later essay). 

In such conditions, the professional self can start to fragment. You might notice that you are beginning to communicate in ways that don’t sound or feel like you, with emails becoming terse and error-strewn, or conversations littered with expletives or interjections of frustration. You might find you are unable to relax. Sleep might be a problem. Your diet and exercise regimes might suffer. You might be feeling irritable, apathetic or cynical, prone to presenteeism and lapses of concentration. In essence, you are not “feeling yourself”. 

These are indicative of the state of fadeout, a precursor to burnout. Much of your energy will be spent on the cognitive and emotional effort of maintaining a semblance of your professional self amidst these seemingly never-ending organisational conditions.  The chance of doing any good work becomes increasingly remote. 

If things get worse, and burnout follows, the idea of fragmented intelligence will no longer be a case of just not “feeling yourself”, but a genuine struggle with the maintenance of a coherent and stable self. Many of those who have experienced burnout talk of the experience of no longer being able to control their minds or their emotions, feeling that who they believed they were has fragmented into something different. Their professional self has dissolved into something quite different - dark, scary and painful - upon which they have little control. Escape attempts can follow, ranging from addiction to death. 

Although there is a lot of focus on this space at the moment as wide-scale digital transformation and the impact of COVID increase psychological and physiological pressure, we don’t think these conditions are massively common - yet. There is a risk they might become so if we fail to fully understand the post-COVID fallout. However, for some, tragically, they are already very real, and they do present a possible future for many if we focus attention on the wrong things, which takes us to...


Dramatic Intelligence (DQ)

Dramatic Intelligence manifests in the vast majority of contemporary organisations, in conditions in which set targets and objectives mix and clash with necessity to digitally transform and be innovative in an arena beset with status, power and politics. 

In essence, Dramatic Intelligence involves the successful performance of multiple roles within such conditions. Most people play up to seven roles:

  • Role One: Performing to the expectations of the shareholders, and deliver the bottom-line results they demand

  • Role Two: Performing to the necessities of the market, and contributing to the digital transformation of work

  • Role Three: Performing to the expectation of the team, and being a collaborative, positive, team-player

  • Role Four: Performing to the expectations of management, and being an assertive, confident and influential individual worthy of promotion

  • Role Five: Performing to the expectations of self, and being a competent, intelligent and innovative individual doing meaningful and purposeful work

  • Role Six: Performing to the powerful political reality of the organisation, and covering one’s back by being visible or invisible at the requisite times and places

  • Role Seven: Performing to colleagues having similar interpretations of the organisational reality as yours, who can be relied on to provide camaraderie and psychic relief

On top of these seven are organisationally-specific behavioural demands, usually wrapped up in value-statements, to which you must also fit and comply. For most people, this feels like having two jobs (or more) which are in eternal conflict, with the performance demands of one role constantly contrasting with those of another. Some can shift between these demands with fluidity, feeling relatively unstressed, and possibly energised, by the different role performances. Others struggle with the role-acting and can be sucked towards the whirlpool of fragmented intelligence. All spend great degrees of time on the performance of the role to the various different audiences, impacting the degree to which they can be genuinely productive or innovative. 

For many, the COVID experience has done a couple of things. 

Firstly, it has pushed these roles closer together in time and space. Prior to every meeting being a Zoom meeting, there were spaces between the various role performances, in which you could discard the mask of one role and put on the mask of another. These spaces could be as little as a walk from one meeting room to another, or as much as an international flight. Today, as meetings bleed into one another, with only a few seconds between clicks, that space has disappeared. The stress of hopping between  different audience expectations has intensified. 

Secondly, we have experienced the impact of a further audience - a meta-audience - that observed you performing all these roles - the family that was in the same space as you as you were working from home together. That audience has seen many sides of you that it perhaps hadn’t seen before. And those sides have bled into the roles you play at home and with family. The boundaries between work and home haven’t just blurred. They have dissolved. What that might look like over time, who knows? 

Ultimately, in conditions in which Dramatic Intelligence most fully manifests, the successful impression of doing the work becomes more important than the effectiveness of the work actually being done. During the pandemic, this has accentuated as people are not fully visible to power in a political sense due to the remote or hybrid nature of the work. This can lead to almost frantic attempts to display that one is working, usually by logging into the system for longer and longer hours, and becoming visible on email chains and on Zoom calls, especially if downsizing feels imminent. 


Individual Intelligence (IQ)

Individual Intelligence becomes possible when organisational conditions enable chunks of time in which you can do focused, uninterrupted, solo work. 

You are able to effectively focus on core aspects of your work - the coding, writing, research, engineering, analysis, design, etc, that you are professionally qualified to do, experienced at doing, and are being paid to deliver. 

You are also able to craft out opportunities to learn in traditionally effective ways to become an expert in your domain through specialised courses, qualifications and certificates; a well-rounded generalist by launching yourself into an MBA; or a future leader through focused leadership development programs.

In such conditions, you become capable of doing the work more quickly and with fewer errors than the mean, potentially putting you in the top quartile of productive employees. However, you are constrained by the capacity of your own mind, which can only ever perceive fragments of the organisational whole, and your own body, which has physical limitations preventing you from working at lightspeed twenty-four hours per day seven days per week. 

While IQ tests have traditionally been able to predict how productive you can be, in the digital world, if the productive elements of your work have repeatable routines, it can and probably will eventually be performed faster and more accurately by a machine. IQ, in itself, will be of limited value, and will need to be enhanced by either some Dramatic Intelligence helping you navigate the complex organisational realm, and/or skills to enable the enhanced cognitive capacity of Collective Intelligence. 

COVID has enabled more opportunities for people to do this type of work, as many of the office distractions and interruptions were washed away, and people could take ownership of their own space. At least prior to Zoom calls being injected into every corner of the day, productivity at the individual level undoubtedly went up. But something else has been stripped away, which takes us to...


Collective Intelligence (CQ)

Collective Intelligence becomes possible when organisational conditions enable chunks of time in which you can effectively probe complex situations in the company of others. 

In recent years, Blanchard’s claim that “none of us are as smart as all of us” has been increasingly empirically tested. For example:

  • Anita Williams Wooley has measured the collective intelligence of teams, finding that they are greater than the intelligence of any single individual within the team. 

  • Amy Edmondson has discovered that teams in which questions are asked, mistakes admitted, ideas expressed and conventional thinking challenged are higher-performing than teams in which they don’t. 

  • Alex Pentland has discovered that problem-solving and efficiency improve when teams regularly have coffee and lunch breaks together. 

All three have determined that the interpersonal relationships within the team are vital, drawing attention to how empathy, psychological safety, and trust enable (and the degrees to which ego, power and excessive extroversion can prevent) the development of collectively intelligent, high-performing teams. 

Some of this type of collective intelligence happens in formal spaces through well-designed collaborative practice. Not brainstorming. Most definitely not brainstorming. Things like Open Space Technology, World Cafe and Appreciative Inquiry can enable high-quality collaboration and tap into the collective intelligence of a group. 

But the formal space only plays a part. 

Research constantly draws attention to the role that liminal, in-between and informal spaces, such as coffee shops, cafes, bars, watercoolers etc, play in the development and maintenance of collective intelligence. For many organisations, already utilising their space to be hyper-efficient, a lot of this activity has already been stripped away. Others, having read the research, have designed workplaces that enable transdisciplinary chats to occur in a serendipitous manner.

COVID has almost entirely destroyed such spaces. For organisations to innovate and perform at a collectively complex level, they need to be reimagined and reoccupied. 

We are finding that the things we traditionally leave outside work - companionship, play, interpersonal care, humour, irony etc - are central to the actual performance of work, as they bond people in ways that enable collective performance. They create bridges over which diverse insights from different disciplines, heritages and experiences can blend into an inclusive and sophisticated whole, developing elegant and holistic solutions beyond the capacity of any single individual that are far less likely to alienate current or potential customers.   

In addition, they also open the door to...


Extended Intelligence (EQ)*

Extended Intelligence becomes possible when organisational conditions enable chunks of time and space in which employees can reach beyond the boundaries of the organisation and tap into the intellectual capacity of an extended socio-neural network. Extended intelligence is any computation that extends beyond a single brain that involves an artificially intelligent or collaboration-enabling tool or machine to connect individual brains across time and space. 

There are a few dimensions to this.

1: An alternative to the Singularity: The Singularity is a hypothetical point in time at which technological growth becomes uncontrollable and irreversible, resulting in unforeseeable changes to human civilization. Many books and movies explore the possible dystopian reality of this future in which machines take over the planet - The Matrix, The Terminator, Neuromancer. 

Others foresee a different future, in which advanced artificial intelligence co-exists with humans in a mutually beneficial future in which the processing power of machines is combined with the creative capacity of humans to deliver a utopian society - Star Trek TOS and TNG, the Iain Banks Culture novels. 

The choice, it seems, is between Morpheus’s dystopian “desert of the real” or Kirk’s optimistic  call to “explore strange new worlds” and go where no-one has gone before. This seems a no-brainer - ironic, given we are talking about intelligence. 

Following Bruno Latour’s work on actor-networks, for us, Extended Intelligence involves the potential for machines and AIs to extend and expand the limitations of an individual’s or collective’s intelligence by tapping into the unimaginable potential of a global, hyper-diverse network of minds working in harmony to explore complex situations and solve complex problems. 


2: The Harmonious Hivemind: Liquid neural networks (or ‘liquid brains’) are a widespread class of cognitive living networks characterized by a common feature: the agents move in space. Information processing networks can be found in microbial communities, inside cells (as gene regulatory webs), and in immune systems.  Organisations host liquid brains as well, those being the neural networks of individuals and machines.

Solid brains and liquid brains both exhibit emergent collective phenomena (dynamical and structural patterns of organization and behaviour that cannot be reduced to the properties of single individuals) and display cognition on a large scale beyond that of the individual components.

However liquid brains exhibit different behaviours to solid brains. For example, the attractors found in some liquid brains are not always based on connection weights but instead on population dynamics. 

By understanding the dynamical properties of organisational liquid brains we can move towards designing optimised collective computational architectures. In short, complex situations get probed, sensemade and solved quickly and elegantly via a collective process that connects all your individual brains into a harmonious hivemind with far greater capacity than any single individual could ever hope to achieve. 

3: Crystalized Fluidity: Extended Intelligence also enables people with a lifetime of experience within one field to interact with those who have experience in another, plus those who are inexperienced but curious. 

The collaborative clash of knowledge domains can result in creative and innovative insights emerging, as a practitioner in one learns the different ways in which a practitioner in another perceives, probes and solves the challenges. At worst, it opens the mind to an alternative perspective on a problem. At best, it can generate huge leaps forward. 

The interaction between crystallized experience and fluid curiosity can also enable new patterns to emerge, as smart naifs ask questions that more experienced people would never imagine to ask. While some might be foolish, others might prod new ways of seeing and thinking about issues into being. 

To achieve this, the ego of the expert must become secondary to the questioning of the intelligent fool. If the fool is prevented from asking questions, expertise never gets probed, and new connections never form. If the fool can ask questions, and the expert is willing to move in many directions, then interesting new insights are inevitable. 

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While it is not possible for organisations to permanently occupy the realm of Extended Intelligence, at least at the moment, it is possible to visit it. During those visits, all kinds of unexpected possibilities will emerge, energising employees and enabling versions of the future that were previously unimaginable. 

It’s a realm leaders need to discover how to reach. If they can’t, others will. If you are a bunch of unconnected individuals operating in the fragmented and dramatic levels, while your competitors are achieving collective, and sometimes extended, intelligence, you will quickly fall behind in the race - no matter what advantage you started with. As findings on Extended Intelligence further enter the mainstream, and they will, this will be the operating system of the future. Human brains, lots of human brains, connected together through performance enabling technologies, that make people and the organisations they work for, collaborative collectives far more than they could ever be alone. 

  • We know that the standard abbreviation for Extended Intelligence is XI, not EQ. However, we live in Greater China, where XI carries great significance in other ways. Hence, we are choosing EQ.