Recently, I have been intrigued by the concept of collective wisdom or collective intelligence– the so called “Hive Mind.” The Hive Mind is an entity of multiple people who openly share their knowledge and opinions.  This concept is detailed in the book The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies and Nations by James Surowiecki.

The book begins with a story about a contest at the 1906 county fair in Plymouth, England, and a statistician named Francis Galton.  Galton was an elitist.  He believed that the smart few should make decisions for the masses.  At the fair, Galton noticed a contest to guess the weight of an ox.  He decided this contest would be the perfect opportunity to demonstrate how the group was not as smart as the individual.  After he collected the results of 800 votes, to his astonishment the median guess, 1197 pounds, was accurate within 1 pound of the true weight of 1198 lbs. He later published his findings in the journal Nature.

Why is this relevant to the work at ART?  Let’s think about the process of designing a house at ART.  We operate in a collaborative way with collective experience and knowledge: We have clients who have very specific ideas and needs; we have contractors who have incredible knowledge about building; and we have our office, a specific group of very talented architects.  Each employee at ART has a direct impact on the final outcome of a project, and with that the project is dramatically improved.  It takes our work from good to great. 

Elements of a Wise Crowd. 

According to Surowiecki, not all crowds are “wise.”  Think of a mob.  In his book he outlines five criteria for a wise crowd.

  1. Diversity of opinion – Each person has a unique interpretation of the facts at hand.
  2. Independence – people’s ideas are not determined by the people around them
  3. Decentralization – People are able to specialize and to pursue their own interests.
  4. Aggregation – There is a process to turn individual ideas into a collective decision.
  5. Trust – each person trusts the group and the process.

How is this relevant to the structure of the office? To create a wise crowd one needs to establish the right environment.  We are striving to do that here at ART.  We aim to create a safe environment, where peoples’ talents and contributions are valued and recognized.  This also relates to a word we have been using lately – synthesizing.  At ART, we are synthesizing our design ideas, the clients’ hopes, and the contractors expertise as we create excellent long-lasting houses.

"Funny Business" by Roger Bollen

We found this cartoon online which is the opposite of our process, but gave us a chuckle. Most importantly, ART Architects offers many viewpoints synthesized into one unified voice, and a collaborative spirit.