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Out of Control: Swarm intelligence and how 900 people can fly a plane

Ashridge College have a leadership conference coming up and one of the sessions caught my eye:

Swarm Intelligence
This is a highly interactive session in which all participants interactively experience the power of Swarm Intelligence. We show how all of the participants collectively can fly a virtual aircraft through certain targets, whereas individuals are unable to this. We make links to companies who have used the insights from this to enhance their business.

Apparently it’s the new conference interactive thing: the audience flies a plane together. Unilever UK did it at their annual management conference. At Argos, the home delivery company, 900 pilots flew a plane together at a Telford conference recently.

This reminded me of a passage in the Kevin Kelly book Out of Control that explains the principle of group intelligence, specifically how group decisioning beats individual decision-making.

An audience holds up red and green panels to control a game of ‘pong’ (as the Americans call it) or ‘tennis’ (remember the old simple video game on the Sinclair Spectrum. You don’t? Is it just me who’s that old, then?) on a giant video screen. They can’t lose, whereas a single person playing the game just needs to lose concentration for a micro-second and loses.

The Kevin Kelly example is on the Swarming Intelligence site

Leaders who think it’s your job to make the decisions for others to act them out, because a leader is the best decision-maker: do you get it yet?


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