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Collective Intelligence: 5 Suggestions for ITIL Initiatives

04/25/2012 by: The SunView Team

Here in the US bees are in trouble. While it is hard to distill the true concern from media reports, there is most definitely a problem. Whether attack from an invasive species, or some rare fungus, we might very well not have the bees we know today, tomorrow. Why should we care, and certainly what does that have to do with IT Service Management or ITIL?

Interestingly enough, Bees are responsible for a significant amount of pollination. That not only includes flowers, which love to bloom this time of year, but also nearly every item on your dinner table. In short, without the bees, and their amazing approach to coordinated and directed work effort, we'd all go hungry - literally.

In a recent article at, Geil Browning discusses ways to cultivate collective intelligence, or rather how to attack problems with a hive mentality. This article does a great job of establishing a common sense approach to leading a group that has a diverse set of characteristics, motivations, and concerns. In fact the distilled list of approaching the various personality types is well worth a read through. Outside of a Briggs Meyer profile test it is your best bet.

This got me thinking though, why isn't the hive approach used more widely when implementing a set of best practices, or even in general process improvement? If you take a look at the origins of Lean, ITIL, Six Sigma, and the like, many of these approaches to manufacturing (yes software development is very much manufactured), divers groups of people, from a wide array of industries came together to produce standards that really do make a difference.

Of course, beating me to the punch is none other than Stephen Mann. He actually wrote a post about industries outside of IT expressing interest in ITIL, and his findings were pretty interesting. This is nothing shy of incredibly great news. That's because this means getting your own diverse group of people together shouldn't be too much of a stretch. I might even go as far to suggest that an ITIL project you currently have on the horizon should include members from all over the organization, and in some cases, adapting ITIL best practices to those areas should assist in achieving success in Non-IT initiatives as well. So, listed below are five steps to help prepare your hive for ITIL.

Also, remember there is no need to go into ITIL blindly, be sure to download our free guide defining 35 ITIL terms. Of course, our guide is geared toward IT Service Management, but with the slightest bit of tweaking, you can make adjustments that would be understood and well received by any department.

Bring together a diverse group
This does not mean make sure you get someone from IT Ops, Support, and Network administration. You need to reach out to Finance, Sales, Marketing, Engineering, and anyone else involved in making sure the organization is profitable, and your goods and/or services are delivered. Don't exclude a member simply because they might have a different set of skills or seem incompatible with the group on the surface.

Create easily distributed profiles
Briggs Meyer is a good start, and there are a lot of quick and free profile quizzes on the web. While they can't replace a full assessment, a basic understanding of how each member of the group learns and interacts will prove to be invaluable. Once created, make sure all members of the group have the profile summaries.

Reward those that think differently
This group will ultimately have people that are non-technical. That's OK, and you will likely discover that their mission, even minus the geek factor, is the same as yours. Ultimately, everyone wants to improve efficiency while driving positive and measurable change for the organization. Ideas should be welcomed, nurtured, and when necessary, tabled for a later time.

Adapt meetings to embrace contrasting learning styles
The profile creation mentioned above will go a long way. However, be sure to check out the suggestions in the article. The hive mentality works best when we understand strengths and weaknesses, and have an outlet to express those, and be spared from unnecessary criticism.

Define a common and accepted set of objectives
In contrast to typical process change, ITIL or otherwise, initiatives from these meetings won't just affect IT. The ultimate goal is to reach, and have positive change affect the whole organization. Success here means IT will be looked at as a leader, and strong agent for change and improvement.

Image: Flickr | kokogiak
Article Originally Published 04/18/12 under the title:
5 Ways to Access the Power of the Hive for ITIL Initiatives