The Connected Leadership Podcast

The Power of Collective Intelligence with Jennifer Sundberg

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Episode notes

In this episode of the Connected Leadership Podcast, Andy Lopata hosts Jennifer Sunberg, a former Ernst & Young London Entrepreneur of the Year and the Co-CEO of Board Intelligence. Her new book, co-authored with Pippa Begg, "Collective Intelligence: Build a Business That's Smarter Than You," encourages incorporating greater collective intelligence in businesses. Theconversation revolves around how businesses can promote intelligence and innovative thinking, not just from the business leaders but from everyone involved. Jennifer points out that many leaders assume their intelligence and ideas are solely responsible for business success, forgetting the power that lies in the team's collective brainpower.

Being overly reliant on a superstar leader can hinder real progress. These leaders might be amazing, but their brilliance doesn't necessarily mean the business's success is solely dependent on them. Jennifer cites well-established organisations like Apple and Amazon as examples, revealing that some of their game-changing decisions like the iPhone and Amazon Prime did not come directly from Steve Jobs or Jeff Bezos but from their respective teams.

The challenge lies in enabling everyone in a business to contribute ideas without fear of criticism or backlash. Jennifer believes that fostering a culture of humility and questioning is crucial for developing collective intelligence. Leaders must operate from an understanding that they don't know everything. She argues for a change in the predominant focus on having answers to fostering an environment that encourages asking questions.

The downside of a top-led approach involves speed, waste, and hubris. Restricting decision-making power to a single person slows response time in a fast-paced business environment. Not tapping into the intelligence of all team members creates intellectual waste.

Andy and Jennifer discuss the power of curiosity, the importance of reverse mentoring, providing truthful information even when it is not easy, and the need to normalise learning from failures. Jennifer states that asking simple questions, particularly the 'how' and 'why', can lead to a deeper understanding of issues and challenges. She further explains that using questions as tools for genuine inquiry and understanding can prove more valuable than using them as weapons. 

Andy and Jennifer also highlight the importance of clear and concise communication, stressing how the right kind of communication can enhance the collective intelligence of a group. Jennifer touches upon the concept of asking 'why', 'so what', and 'now what' questions. Finally, they emphasise the importance of maintaining the right focus in the face of multiple new ideas, and the pitfalls that can occur when collective intelligence doesn’t find a receptive audience. Jennifer suggests that shared critical thinking and questioning are required to avoid negative outcomes. 

Jennifer shares thought-provoking anecdotes, personal experiences, and scholarly wisdom, ensuring that by the end of the conversation, you'll view leadership through a new, enlightening lens. Tune in to this episode for an engaging discussion on collective intelligence and take the first step 

Connect with Andy LopataWebsite

Connect with Jennifer Sundberg LinkedIn Board Intelligence