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How Intelligent Is Your Organisation?

Has Your Organisation Got Smarts?


What is intelligence? Is it the ability to acquire knowledge, a capacity for logic, understanding, self-awareness, emotional knowledge, planning, creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving? One description for intelligence is a general cognitive problem-solving skill and a mental ability involved in reasoning, perceiving relationships and analogies, calculating and learning quickly. Doesn't this sound like the ideal qualities of a high-performance team and organisation! Yet most organisations are still slow to gather and process information, communication stumbles through the hierarchies and is far from agile when it comes to problem-solving and responding to environmental fluctuations and competitor behaviour.

The analogy of a large ship rings true here, many organisations are steady and dependable, they follow a set course and seek out the path of least resistance whereas, in reality, organisations need to function as a school of fish. Quick to take in and perceive internal and external information and respond. Survival of the fittest and natural selection depends on it.

Human capital and the potential of the organisation to innovate and perform are the results of the collaboration and cumulative value of multiple dynamic parts of an organisation. Performance and future survival are a result of the sum total of the organisation's intelligence. Intelligent organisations know how to acquire and harness not only knowledge assets like databases, intellectual property and employee skills but they also know how to align the strategy, culture, leadership and employee relationships to extract and optimise knowledge that will drive performance and innovation to be a step ahead of the competition.


Leaders get the best from their people and out of the organisation by using what they have- systems, people and information intelligence.

Uncovering Intelligence


Systems, operations, strategic leadership and people come together to produce results. When something goes wrong human error is often used as a quick defence to justify any missed opportunities or mistakes. Uninformed and unintelligent behaviour is quickly volunteered as reasons for missed KPIs, unethical conduct or slipping behind the competition.

Why is human error so casually used as a scapegoat or is this simply an easy way to diffuse a situation that requires a much deeper audit into the under-utilised intelligence of the organisation? What lies behind the faces and in the recesses of hundreds of meeting, conversations and powerpoint presentations left unexplored due to poor culture and leadership?

Simplistically, many errors could likely be avoided and strategies optimised with the better acquisition and application of knowledge, not only technical knowledge but the combination of non-technical skills like leadership, diverse thinking and individual experiences. Organisational Intelligence is the ability to acquire and correctly apply a vast array of knowledge in the organisation. From cognitive intelligence, thinking styles and intellectual property to emotional intelligence, communication and cultural catalysts-people are the most valuable asset in an organisation and there is adequate knowledge at hand from the employees and leaders in an organisation that can contribute to a vault of intelligence. This would adequately arm an organisation to respond to situations, rise to complexity, innovate and make proactive decisions.


Organisational Intelligence (OI) by definition is the capability to comprehend and create knowledge relevant to the purposes of the organisation. OI is the capacity of an organisation to create knowledge and use it to strategically adapt to the environment or marketplace. It is similar to traditional cognitive IQ but viewed at an organisational level. OI explores leadership strategy, culture, employee engagement and knowledge assets such as patents and intellectual property as contributors to OI and performance. It doesn't, however, require that organisations have the smartest employees but it does require organisations having systems in place to optimise the assessment, sharing and use of information.


Measuring Intelligence


Measuring organisational intelligence (OI) is an entirely different form of workforce analysis that accounts for the strategic and primary drivers that enable or inhibit employee engagement and other drivers of important business outcomes. OI surveys measure employee engagement and culture as the desired state in terms of employee motivation and performance (i.e. discretionary energy and effort), commitment, retention, and advocacy at the individual and organisational level.

However, OI surveys also look at the drivers of employee engagement and culture from organisation health and effectiveness angle too. Therefore, OI evaluates leadership, strategy, structure, information and technology too. For the purposes of OI, one must look deeper than employee engagement and culture, OI evaluation involves communication, growth and development and business strategy too. All of these are vectors for OI.


Therefore, for organisations to truly become intelligent and enjoy agility and innovation there needs to be a safe and empowering culture and an effective communication style that supports the sharing of information and ideas and the associated emotional intelligence. People who lack engagement and do not feel valued in their role are unlikely to participate and contribute. Measuring and analysing OI requires looking at each area or department of the organisation and developing a bespoke solution to optimise information sharing in that area of the organisation and the associated impact on people and performance.


Organisational Intelligence Framework


There are many forms of intelligence that are important for the workforce:

  • Emotional Intelligence (EQ)

  • Cultural Intelligence (CQ)

  • Social Intelligence (SQ)

  • Cognitive Intelligence (IQ)

  • Leadership quotient (LQ) Leadership Quotient is a sum of competence, character and capability (LQ=IQ+EQ+XQ)

An OI framework looks at these competencies as the basic foundation of the organisation's capability for leadership, culture creation and strategy execution.

Organisations behave just as an individual would, we take in information, signals and data, we process it, think about it, feel it and reference past experiences to sort the information into reason and logic and then decide how to respond and problem solve. Organisations are no different when harnessing intelligence but on the multi-person level with numerous perspectives and experiences, emotions and ego.

There is a goldmine of intelligence and possibilities available in an organisation but it can be shrowded by a haze of miscommunication, poor culture and nonchalant attitudes.

Become an Intelligent Organisation


Becoming an intelligent organisation is a stepwise approach that will require some changes.


  1. Don't be afraid of sourcing data and using it. Use employee surveys, 360-degree surveys, analytics and information, it gives you a view of the past and a prediction into the future. Data shares feelings, ideas and experiences.

  2. What organisational culture have you got and what culture do you want and need? Do the people in the organisation align with the values and behaviours in the organisation? If not make changes

  3. Embrace feedback. The good, the bad, the triumphs and the failures. Learn to share, troubleshoot and discuss before as well as after the event

  4. Don't assume communication is successful.Over-communicate the business strategy. roles and responsibility, customer insights and the vectors of culture.

  5. Create psychologically safe environments. Whether in one-on-one discussions, team or exec-level meetings, create environments that promote the sharing of opinions and question-asking.


Furthermore, without the coming together of the right environment and a tuned-in leadership team to extract and share the available knowledge, an appropriate mechanism for the strategic application of this knowledge, a succinctly communicated business strategy - all the potential intelligence gained by people in an organisation from their environments, competitors and their combined experience becomes intelligence wasted and this does not make the organisation very smart does it?



About the author: Kylie de Klerk is an Organisational Culture and Intelligence Specialist and an Employee Engagement catalyst. She has a special interest in emotional and social intelligence.

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