Evidence suggests that 40,000 years ago, Neanderthals went extinct right around the time that modern humans were starting to flourish. The two species were remarkably similar (their DNA differs by a mere 0.12%) and yet had very different trajectories. Why would one species flourish while a similar one goes extinct? At least part of the answer lies in that the Neanderthals failed to develop and process the wisdom of the crowd – at least we people at 9Lenses have good reason to believe so!
One theory posits that Neanderthals went extinct because they couldn’t divide labor based on skills or ability. While modern humans developed a versatile division of labor that allowed them to exploit their environment more efficiently, Neanderthals expended their resources mostly on large game hunting, employing all the members of their group – men, women, and even children. Humans organized their groups in a manner that ensured continuous food supply by segregating the hunting, cleaning, cooking, and caring tasks according to physical strength and skills. Neanderthals exercised no such diversification.
Neanderthals were no less intelligent than humans, but human groups were certainly more organized than Neanderthal groups. The critical difference was cultural – the difference in social roles between the two groups allowed one to flourish while the other waned. Human groups employed the core competencies of their members more intelligently. The cultural institutions of humans enabled them to build large cohesive social groups, whereas the Neanderthals’ small fragmented groups were unsustainable. Humans have continued to evolve by learning from each other. The organizational intelligence of human culture enabled advantageous cultural adaptations and paved the way for innovations.
Organizational intelligence enabled humans to interact and work together on a much larger scale. From the pyramids of Giza to the International Space Station, from earliest railroads to the smart cities and smart cars of today, from monarchies to democracies, organizational intelligence has fueled human progress.
With progress, however, we also have concomitant complications. Today’s globalized world that is hyper-connected and changes at warp speed poses new challenges for organizations. How do you best leverage the intelligence of thousands of people? How do you make sense of the deluge of big data? How do you best use machine intelligence? We live in a brave new world of fast-paced technological transformations. The challenge for 21st century humanity is in successfully steering and employing these transformations for humanity’s benefit. To do that, we need new ways to employ organizational intelligence.
In some ways, the 21st century world mirrors the prehistoric world. In the race for shared resources and common globalized markets, the ones who harness the collective (organizational) intelligence are the ones who will thrive.
Don’t be Neanderthals. Embrace organizational intelligence – we’ll show you how.
Check out the overview of the 9Lenses Organizational Intelligence software: