Friday, April 19, 2013

Hacking the Enterprise - Collaborative Intelligence

In this first blog post about Hacking the Enterprise, we will to introduce the concept behind the Whispr platform we are working on.  The concept of hacking the enterprise is about unlocking the knowledge within your human capital and building highly efficient communications models to allow you to make decisions and get business done.    The value of roles, clearly defined lines of communication and process is becoming universally recognized as the single most important factor in building effective teams.   It seems almost illogical that such a quintessential component of an enterprises’ success has been long neglected yet nothing much has changed with respect to the way people work together in the last four decades.   To understand more about Hacking the Enterprise and optimizing the effectiveness, we have to look back to 2001.  

Research started to look at the failures of effective team communications after the tragic events of September 11, 2001 when an internal audit of communications and knowledge sharing was spearheaded by psychologists who sought to understand where the intelligence community could have done better.   The Harvard based team was led by the late Richard Hackman and they approached the work with a question of what made certain intelligence units functionally effective while others were not.

Richard’s team interviewed, observed, surveyed and watched hundreds of individuals operating across sixty four different intelligence organizations.  By watching them up close, he learned how most are viewed as solo or individual contributors yet have to function within the greater collective by collaborating with their colleagues.    Throughout all this research, the team identified a comprehensive list of factors and models that seemed to be factor’s in the cohesiveness and effectiveness of groups.  Within the context of the intelligence community, these groups can sometimes be ad hoc and survive only to address a very specific decision.  Cultural, regulatory and other factors cannot always be accounted for within this context however there were some startling revelations that had a much broader applicability of use.

Graphic courtesy Julian Partridge (via Flickr - CC License)

While the work is summarized in a book aptly named Collaborative Intelligence ( ) Richard’s team noted that the critical factor wasn’t as simple as just having a set of static team members, a clearly defined vision statement nor was it singularly due to human endearments or egos.   It turned out that the single strongest predictor of group effectiveness was the amount of help that analysts gave to each other.

As with most enterprises, the highest-performing teams place a great emphasis on collaborating, coaching, teaching, and consulting with colleagues.   Those who shared little resources and did not effectively communicate with their colleagues for enhanced problem solving embodied the anti-pattern of this success.  Hacking the enterprise is a conceptual hack embracing the collective pattern of good collaboration to facilitate these good patterns.  Much like a set of synaptic relays making connections to each other for the first time in a small child’s brain, hacking the enterprise is about bridging gaps in knowledge and communication.

Individuals and enterprises benefit the most when they freely contribute their knowledge and skills to others and do so with clearly defined roles.   Whispr is build on that premise and facilitates the hacking the enterprise mentality by allowing ad hoc teams to create powerful, focused task forces to solve specific problems and preserving that knowledge.

So what is the call to action? Whispr is a platform that allows distributed teams to set up decisions ("Whisprs") and add contributors based on the roles defined in a RACI Matrix.   Whispr is open for a very limited time for alpha testing at   If you have a decision to make and have a distributed team, this is the perfect tool for hacking your enterprise.   You can signup at Those who come in now can use it for free for a limited time.