Organizational intelligence

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Organizational Intelligence (OI) is the capability of an organization to comprehend and conclude knowledge relevant to its business purpose.

  • an ability to make sense of complex situations and act effectively
  • an ability to interpret and act upon relevant events and signals in the environment
  • ability to develop, share and use knowledge relevant to its business purpose
  • ability to reflect and learn from experience

OI embraces both knowledge management (KM) and organizational learning, as it is the application of KM concepts to a business environment, additionally including learning mechanisms, comprehension models and business value network models, such as the balanced scorecard concept.

OI's focus includes the creation, fostering and management of organizational competencies (OCs).

Organizational intelligence has been defined as "the capacity to sense, make sense, and act in flexible, creative, adaptive ways",[1] as "collaborative problem-solving between people and technical artifacts within and beyond complex enterprises"[2] and as "how well people put their heads together in a group, team, organization, or community".[3]

Organizational Intelligence and operational intelligence are usually seen as subsets of business analytics, since both are types of know-how that have the goal of improving business performance across the enterprise. Operational Intelligence is often linked to or compared with real-time business intelligence (BI) since both deliver visibility and insight into business operations. Operational Intelligence differs from BI in being primarily activity-centric, whereas BI is primarily data-centric and relies on a database (or Hadoop cluster) as well as after-the-fact and report-based approaches to identifying patterns in data. By definition, Operational Intelligence works in real-time and transforms unstructured data streams—from log file, sensor, network and service data—into real-time, actionable intelligence.

While Operational Intelligence is activity-focused and BI is data-focused, Organizational Intelligence differs from these other approaches in being workforce- or organization-focused. Organizational Intelligence helps companies understand the relationships that drive their business--by identifying communities as well as employee workflow and collaborative communications patterns across geographies, divisions, and internal and external organizations.

In King Arthur's Round Table, Harvard professor David Perkins uses the metaphor of the Round Table to discuss how collaborative conversations create smarter organizations. The Round Table is one of the most familiar stories of Arthurian legend since it’s meant to signal the shift in power from a king who normally sat at the head of a long table and made long pronouncements while everyone else listened. By reducing hierarchy and making collaboration easier, Arthur discovered an important source of power--organizational intelligence--that allowed him to unite medieval England.

The lawnmower paradox, another metaphor from Perkins’ book, describes the fact that, while pooling physical effort is easy, pooling mental effort is hard. "It’s a lot easier for 10 people to collaborate on mowing a large lawn than for 10 people to collaborate on designing a lawnmower." An organization’s intelligence is reflected by the types of conversations-- face-to-face and electronic, from the mailroom to the boardroom --which members have with one another. "At the top, top level, organizational intelligence depends on ways of interacting with one another that show good knowledge processing and positive symbolic conduct."[4]

Harold Wilensky argued that organizational intelligence benefited from healthy argument and constructive rivalry.[5]



  1. ^ McMaster, Michael D. (December 12, 1998), Organizational Intelligence, Paradigm Shift, retrieved 6 February 2010 
  2. ^ Veryard, Richard (2001). Component-Based Business. London: Springer. ISBN 1-85233-361-8. 
  3. ^ Bucuvalas, Abigail (November 1, 2003), Studying King Arthur's Round Table: An Interview with Professor David Perkins, Harvard Graduate School of Education, retrieved 6 February 2010 
  4. ^ Perkins, David (2002). King Arthur’s Round Table: How Collaborative Conversations Create Smart Organizations. NY: Wiley. ISBN 0-4712-3772-8. 
  5. ^ Gladwell, Malcolm (March 10, 2003), "Connecting the Dots", New Yorker, retrieved 3 February 2010 

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