We all know about IQ (Intelligence Quotient) and even EI (emotional intelligence), but very few people seem to deal with CI or Collaborative Intelligence. Since I have been focused on collaboration for the last 20+ years, I have become aware that true collaboration is rarely successful without all those involved having the mindset of collaboration.This is not as easy as it sounds, even though thousands of collaboration vendors promise great collaboration by using their tool.

Collaborative Intelligence concepts

IQ is a way, through testing, to measure intelligence (if it does that accurately is another story), EI measures emotional intelligence, so what does CI measure?

Emotional Intelligence (EI) is about recognizing and managing your emotions. It is made up of these four components:

  • Self Awareness -- how well do you understand your own emotions?
  • Self Management -- is about your ability to control your emotions. Do you react or respond?
  • Social Awareness -- your organizational awareness, focus on service and level of empathy, taking feedback and taking personal responsibility.
  • Relationship Management -- developing others, serving as an inspiring leader and catalyst for change, collaborating with a high-performing team and managing conflict are part of relationship management.

The relationship management piece of EI is closest to Collaborative Intelligence (CI), but CI encompasses a bit more.What makes someone a good collaborator is mostly their mindset, coupled with some specific knowledge and a few tools. Realize that tools are enablers, they can’t make people collaborate, they can just enable the interactions.

Collaborative intelligence has these 10 components:

1. Willingness to Collaborate

You are willing to engage with others for mutual benefit, or to help get to a specific goal.

2. Willingness to Share

When I used to deal more with knowledge management, I would run into what I called “knowledge hoarders.” These are people who believe that their value is their knowledge (often hard-won knowledge), and to share it would diminish their value.In actuality it increases their value

3. Knowing How to Share

What medium is the most appropriate?Breaking up with your girlfriend (or any emotion-laden conversation) on email is not using the most appropriate medium for the message… yet many people do it. It is understanding the amount and emotional tone you are trying to convey and realizing that when we are in person, most (80%) of the information we get is from body language, facial expressions and voice tone, not the actual content itself.

4. Knowing What to Share

How much is TMI (too much information)? How is the person reacting to what you are saying?Is there enough common context for shared meaning to be conveyed?

5. How to Build Trust

One of the ways trust is built is through being vulnerable and sharing.Also being consistent in your words and behaviors and following through on what you promised helps with trust. As one of my co-authors, Stewart Levine, says “it is hard to trust without agreements (rules of engagement) and knowing how to deal with conflict constructively.”

6. Understanding Team Dynamics

We did some quick research while working with the IT department at a large retailer. When we talked to one group and asked how well the collaboration was going, the group leader rated it 82 (out of 100) and the average for the rest of the team was 45. It was clear that this leader was not in touch with his team.The next time we went back to this client, the team leader was gone.In working on a large number of projects we found that the most critical factor for success (by far) is the team or project leader.Their ability to understand the dynamics of their team is critical for success.

7. Hubs, Bridging and Networking

Are you a “Hub, bridge or networker?” A hub is someone who everyone talks to, a bridge is a person that connects to two or more groups that don’t normally interact with each other and a networker is someone who really works a room.They chat with everyone, know a bit about each person they talk to and often recommend person A speak with person Q (for mutual benefit).

Hubs can be easily seen through social network analysis:

Learning Opportunities


The larger spots represent hubs in the network, the bigger the spot, the more connections it has.

Bridgers are harder to spot. I remember on one project I did, I had an IT person in the room and an HR person in the room, and they were both speaking understandable English, yet each was frustrated because the messages were not getting across to the other person.Their contexts were so far apart that I, understanding the context for each, had to step in as a kind of translator to get the meaning across. In this case, I was the bridge between IT and HR.

Everyone knows someone that they can point to as a networker. Many of my mentors are amazing at keeping track of who is who and who needs what.They are always looking for opportunities for themselves and others.

8. Mentoring and Coaching

I coach people all the time, executive coaching, and also coaching for collaboration start-ups through my Mentor program. I see the role of coach as helping to guide someone through a process to a goal. Mentoring is a bit different.It is the wiliness to share your knowledge and experience with someone who requests it.It is also a way to foster someone to help them achieve more. These are critical skills in a collaborative environment.

9. Open to New Ideas

We have all dealt with NIH (not invented here), or “don’t fix it if there is no problem.”Both of these sayings show rigidity in thinking and often a closed mind.These are not the people you want to brainstorm new ideas with, but they are usually the ones who say “this is the process, it is the way we do it, and will continue to do it.”Flexibility in thought is critical for collaboration.Processes are great, but people are messy! One of my favorite sayings is “Man plans, and God laughs.” Things never turn out the way you expect and you need to be flexible enough in your thinking to adapt to any changes that come your way.

10. Tools and Technology

Although tools and technology usually only form about 20% of the solution (with people and process comprising the other 80%), they can often be the critical enabler for interactions, communication and understanding the other person’s context (meaning). Understand what type of tool is the correct medium for a type of communication.

CI As a Metric

Everyone is into metrics these days, especially social metrics. The goal of CI is to provide these 10 scales to measure the social/collaborative mindset. CI can be a great predictor of where relationship problems might occur, who would be the best to lead a high performance team, or which people have the most influence on the most different groups.

Editor's Note: You can read more of David Coleman's articles, including: