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The Collective Intelligence Genome

Google. Wikipedia. Threadless. All are platinum exemplars of collective intelligence in action. Two of
them are famous. The third is getting there.

Each of the three helps demonstrate how large, loosely organized groups of people can work together
electronically in surprisingly effective ways–sometimes even without knowing that they are working
together, as in the case of Google.

In the authors’ work at MIT’s Center for Collective Intelligence, they have gathered nearly 250
examples of web-enabled collective intelligence. After examining these examples in depth, they identified a relatively small set of building blocks that are combined and recombined in various ways in
different collective intelligence systems. This article offers a new framework for understanding those
systems–and more important, for understanding how to build them. It identifies the underlying
building blocks–the “genes”–that are at the heart of collective intelligence systems. It explores the
conditions under which each gene is useful. And it begins to suggest the possibilities for combining
and recombining these genes to not only harness crowds in general, but to harness them in just the
way that your organization needs.

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