MGMT 8007M:Week 10: Distributed Intelligence Essay Assignment Paper

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MGMT 8007M:Week 10: Distributed Intelligence Essay Assignment Paper

MGMT 8007M: Complexity and Applied Systems Thinking | Week 10

[S]warm intelligence is now being used by some people in surprising and innovative ways. Companies are being set up to run by swarm intelligence. Computer programs are using it in a radical approach to problem solving. There is even an annual event, Swarmfest, where scientists swarm together to discuss new applications of swarm intelligence.

—Fisher (2009)

Collective intelligence, distributed intelligence, or swarm intelligence are terms that have virtually the same meaning and is the collective behavior that emerges from a set of social insects, according to Bonabeau and Meyer (2001). Swarm intelligence has been primarily thought of, not in human terms, but rather in insects and other social animals—even robots. Essentially, swarm intelligence is some sort of collective behavior that emerges from a set of agents, whether the agents are insects; predator sharks or wolves; apes; or people when embedded in a large group.

This week, you explore principles and concepts in the emerging field of distributed intelligence, with applications to leadership and management.

Learning Objectives

This week, you will:

  • Analyze the effects of distributed intelligence on organizational learning


You will develop the following skills:

  • Distributed thinking

Learning Resources

Recommended Readings

Bonabeau, E., & Meyer, C. (2001). Swarm intelligence: A whole new way to think about business. Harvard Business Review, 107–114. Retrieved from

Uhl-Bien, M., & Marion, R. (Eds.). (2008). Complexity leadership, part 1: Conceptual foundations. Charlotte, NC: Information Age.

  • Chapter 9, “Emergent Strategy Via Complexity Leadership: Using Complexity Science and Adaptive Tension to Build Distributed Intelligence” (pp. 225–268)

Recommended Media

Shirky, C. (2009). How social media can make history [Video file]. Retrieved from

Note: The approximate length of this media piece is 16 minutes.

Tapscott, D. (2012). Four principles for the open world [Video file]. Retrieved from

Note: The approximate length of this media piece is 18 minutes.


MGMT 8007M:Week 10: Distributed Intelligence Essay Assignment Paper

Select an organization and consider its distributed intelligence. Think back to the systems thinking disciplines: personal mastery, shared vision, team learning, mental models, and systems thinking. Can you identify any simple rules within distributed intelligence that apply to human organizations? What might be some advantages of distributed intelligence vis-à-vis command and control leadership? Does all intelligence reside at the top of the organization, or is it distributed throughout the organization? A related topic for the interested reader is distributed cognition, which was the dissertation topic of one of our students.

As Hutchins (2000) noted, “cognitive processes may be distributed across the members of a social group, cognitive processes may be distributed in the sense that the operation of the cognitive system involves coordination between internal and external (material or environmental) structure, and processes may be distributed through time in such a way that the products of earlier events can transform the nature of later events” (p. 1).

Skills to learn this week include an understanding of distributed intelligence and some applications to leadership and management. As organizations become more complex, so, too, must leadership skills. Why? One answer to this is for the interested reader to review Ashby’s Law of Requisite Variety, which unfortunately is outside the scope of this class. Another suggestion is to take a class or spend some time studying game theory, which is also outside the scope of this class, but something leaders should understand.

To prepare for this Discussion, review the provided resources and those you can find to learn more about distributed intelligence with applications to leadership. Think of this discussion as a classroom presentation, wherein you post your ideas and respond to questions.

By Day 3

Initial Post

Post a poster (that might be presented at a poster session of an academic conference) containing an example of distributed intelligence in your selected organization and its potential effect on leadership.


  • Start with a brief analysis of your selected organization’s structure, describing it in systems terms and evaluating its effectiveness.
  • Explain how distributed intelligence might contribute to improving your organization or to your organization becoming a learning organization.
  • Explain any advantages of distributed intelligence for leading and managing the organization.

By Day 5

Responses to your Colleagues

Respond to at least two colleagues’ posts by adding to your colleagues’ ideas or positing a different perspective to your colleagues’ ideas.

Note: Include proper APA citations to support all statements by referencing sources from relevant peer-reviewed articles published within the last 5 years.


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