The three capabilities every business needs to move faster

Collective intelligence

5 min read

Why do businesses need to move quickly?

Large businesses tend to move more like the Titanic than a zippy speedboat. In the face of rapid, unpredictable change this lack of organisational agility is a problem, to put it mildly. From Netscape to Nokia, the corporate graveyard is full of businesses that failed to pivot and paid the price.

But not all large businesses meet this fate. For some, business agility is a way of life — and instrumental in their success.

Take Amazon, for example. The sheer mass of its 1.6 million employees should slow it to a crawl, but it doesn’t. The business has repeatedly innovated to stay ahead, from introducing one-click payment and Prime subscriptions to pioneering the public cloud with Amazon Web Services (AWS).

So has LEGO, which escaped obsolescence early in the 21st century with a cascade of innovative brand extensions, earning it the nickname the “Apple of toys”.

Businesses like these seem to break free of the shackles of scale and stay nimble. Why are they able to respond quickly to market changes and innovate at pace while their competitors languish in bureaucracy?

How do large businesses stay nimble?

Companies like Amazon don’t stay ahead of the pack by moving fast and breaking things. Quite the opposite. They succeed because they move fast and make things.

They systematically create the conditions for the entire organisation to think well and act fast, building a collective intelligence that’s far greater than the sum of its parts. They do this by equipping everyone with three capabilities: critical thinking, great communication, and a shared focus on the problems and opportunities that matter most.

The Question Driven Insight (QDI) Principle is a methodology that has been used by a wide range of large organisations to build these capabilities and use them to their advantage. From Fortune 500s to government departments, the QDI Principle has been key to improving organisational agility.

What is the QDI Principle?

The QDI Principle is Board Intelligence’s methodology for high-quality thinking and communication. In other words, it’s a playbook for creating the conditions that unleash collective intelligence — the ability of people at every level of the business to use their brains and apply them where it matters most.

It has three elements: critical thinking, great communication, and focus.

Clear and impactful communication helps good thinking to travel, convincing and compelling others to action and rallying the resources and the support needed to act on it.

Critical thinking is all about asking the right questions, enabling people to better evaluate information and generate breakthrough insights and ideas.

Shared focus is what keeps an organisation pulling in the same direction, making sure everyone’s thinking is aligned around what really matters.

  Collective Intelligence book   How to build a business that’s smarter than you    Every company has a vast reservoir of brainpower. We’ve written a book to show  you how to tap into it. Find out more

How does the QDI Principle help businesses move faster?

Consider why large companies are generally slow. Decisions often have to go through many layers of approval and discussion, which makes rapid pivots all but impossible. We’ve seen businesses miss out on game-changing acquisitions because of bureaucratic inertia alone.

At other times, leaders fail to see that there’s a decision to be taken. When Netflix’s co-founders offered to sell their nascent start-up to Blockbuster for $50m in 2000, the video rental chain’s CEO laughed them out of the room.

Collective intelligence is a strategic capability that every organisation can develop to tackle problems like these. And the QDI Principle can help you unleash it.

By getting everyone in the organisation to use their brains, you’re more likely to surface the breakthrough insights and ideas that will help you leapfrog your peers or out-run your industry’s decline. Imagine if just one Blockbuster employee had grasped streaming’s potential to displace video rental and convinced their CEO to see it too.

Collective intelligence is also essential for empowered delegation, where decisions are taken closer to the action, rather than passing slowly through bottlenecks at the centre. And business agility is impossible without it.

Better equipping team members to think robustly, communicate clearly, and stay focused gives leaders the confidence to let them do more of the thinking.

And this confidence is crucial for delegation, particularly in large organisations where leaders may be remote from situations and employees on the ground. It’s a bit like building a house; progress will be slow if the architect doesn’t have confidence that the bricks will be laid properly.

The impact of implementing the QDI Principle is that there are more decision-makers, making better decisions, about the right things, fuelled by better insights — and that is what helps all companies move faster and smarter, whatever their size.

How can we use the QDI Principle to help us move faster?

You can’t afford to have only some of your employees thinking well. To move quickly, you need to bake the QDI Principle into every activity in the business – so you can get everyone thinking well, all the time.

Board and management reporting are perfect examples of the sort of routine business activity that be repurposed to build collective intelligence. Apply the QDI Principle here, and each report becomes an opportunity to keep people ruthlessly focused on the big picture, ask the questions that really matter, and mobilise others to act through impactful communication.

Our AI-powered software platform, Lucia, is designed to do just this, guiding the thinking and writing that goes into board and management reporting.

It uses real-time AI-based feedback to make it easier for people to write well. Through templates and prompts, it helps you pull out the key insights to ensure the report is punchy, tackles all the tough questions, and aligns with the organisation’s goals.

This then helps decision-makers at every level of the business, from the board down, to have better conversations about what really matters. Over time, it weaves the QDI Principle into everything people do, making critical thinking, good communication, and a clear focus part of your culture.

Who is responsible for implementing the QDI Principle?

As with any other organisation-wide capability, collective intelligence is ultimately the responsibility of the CEO, the executive team, and the board.

But getting your business to move faster and smarter is not merely a question of shouting from the mountaintop. There’s a reason that 71% of C-suite leaders say they’re struggling to make their organisations more agile.

The good news is that it’s easy to get started. Any leader can implement the principles of critical thinking, communication and focus in their own day-to-day routines, or with their teams. When it happens at the C-suite, it starts to cascade downwards when people adopt the QDI Principle themselves and start expecting it of others.

And if leaders give people tools like Lucia, collective intelligence can start to become an organisational trait. When it’s everywhere, and it feels natural, then high-quality thinking and rapid action become the organisation’s agility superpower, helping the business to survive and thrive.

  Lucia   Write great reports, every time    A thinking and writing platform that helps you to write brilliantly clever and  beautiful reports that surface breakthrough insights and spur your business to  action. Find out more

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