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Using Swarm Intelligence for Digital Transformation

Using Swarm Intelligence for Digital Transformation

In the year 2006 when I wrote my Bachelor Thesis about nature-inspired algorithms and how to use the concept of Swarm Intelligence of bees, ants, and birds for Computer Science, this seemed very weird to many people. Meanwhile by using social media for some years we all know about swarm intelligence and how powerful it is. In the year 2020 it is natural for many of us to raise questions on Facebook or other social media platforms about how to do this or that in a proper way and rely on the Swarm Intelligence of our network that we will get the right answer in that way.

In the year 2020 we know that Swarm Intelligence means also that the complete knowledge of a network or a community contains much more than the sum of knowledge of all its individuals. We can also say that a community or a system can do together what their individual members can´t do alone on their own. This effect is call “Emergence”. Emergence means that the whole thing is much more than the sum of its´ single parts. This is rooted in the way how the individuals of a network communicate and interact with each other and share their knowledge to solve problems. Real Swarm Intelligence is created by collective behavior within decentralized, self-organized systems. A social media platform can easily evolve as such a decentralized, self-organized system which supports collective behavior. And Facebook did during the last 15 years. 

Swarm Intelligence in companies and organizations

But also, many companies provide a perfect base for building up a powerful Swarm Intelligence. If we take a close look to many companies, then we can already see a lot of Swarm Intelligence. If we give our employees enough space to grow and to interact with each other, to find solutions by themselves as a team, we can support the generation of Swarm Intelligence in our company. If we want to create more Swarm Intelligence in our company, we can encourage employees to exchange ideas within their teams or even in cross-functional working groups.

Even if many companies have already discovered the benefits of Swarm Intelligence for their daily business as soon as it comes to Digital Transformation all advantages of Swarm Intelligence seem to be forgotten. Most of the companies try to plan their Digital Transformation Strategy top-down. The top management alone decides how Digital Transformation should look like for every business department without talking to the employees who work in these business departments. But if we don´t talk to these people how we know what daily work in these business departments really means?

Shocking statements by employees

During my career as Digital Transformation consultant I talked so often to employees in different business departments of various companies who told me the same:

 “The top management has no idea about what we are really doing in our business department. The top management does not know anything about the challenges, hurdles and pain points in our daily work.”

I also often heard things like:

“Yes, there is a to-be-process defined by the top management. But we don´t work like the to-be-process say, because it is not practicable. If we would work like the to-be-process says we wouldn´t get done anything / we would need much more time / our customers would not be satisfied/…… Therefore, we created our own workarounds and internal processes which are not communicated to the top management.”

One of the worst things I heard was:

“Yes, we have a to-be-process, but there is no way that we can follow it. I don´t know you has defined this process, but this person should have talked to us while defining this process. Because if this person had talked to us, he/she would have known that we don´t have the necessary machines to follow this to-be-process.”

I heard much more statements like this during my career but I think these few examples show perfectly that there are often a huge knowledge gaps about processes and the way of working between the top management and business departments. Especially for business departments on lower level within the organization.

When it comes to Digital Transformation this knowledge gap can have fatal impacts. Digitalization of business processes designed only top-down with no proper knowledge about the real daily business in all business departments can be risky. Additionally, there is a huge risk to digitalize waste in form of unnecessary or ineffective process steps.

All knowledge you will need to avoid these failures can be already in your company. You only need to excavate it. Just trust in the Swarm Intelligence of your employees. Involve them and their Swarm Intelligence into you Digital Transformation Strategy. If you can´t do this on your own, then get some help from the outside. There are consultants who can help you with that. Report this

Published by

Iris Meinl, CEO & Owner of Meinl Management Consulting DMCC
Expert for Digital Transformation, Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things & Industry 4.0

#digitaltransformation #artificialintelligence #swarmintelligence #futureofwork

Iris Meinl