Sunday, May 27, 2012

Political parties and organizational intelligence

Political parties are very unusual kinds of organizations, whose collective intelligence could be very interesting to look at. They consist of professional politicians, paid party workers and volunteer members, together with an ecosystem of think tanks and other hangers-on.

The question of organizational intelligence is about the power of an organization to think powerfully and coherently, and the power to learn and solve problems quickly. How does a political party become aware of new opportunities and threats in the socioeconomic environment, or new situations that call for a coordinated political response? How does a party develop and evolve stories and narratives, to make sense of new situations? How are policies developed, tested and agreed? How do new ideas (including new problems and new solutions) travel through a political organization, and is this different from the way ideas travel through other kinds of organization? How do different communication mechanisms and technologies (e.g. meetings, internet forums, social networking) affect the development of a coherent political consensus?

@mrianleslie sees the problem in terms of diversity. Having too many clever men around Ed Miliband is making the Labour Party stupider (New Statesman, 25 June, 2014). Clearly that is an important factor, but it is not the only one.

We are more accustomed to looking at these questions in relation to large commercial organizations or government bodies. Enron is a fascinating example, because it was packed with talented people, but the business was incoherent. Microsoft is another fascinating example, because everyone imagines (wrongly) that the decisions are all taken at the top. Perhaps party organizations would like to be like Microsoft, but end up more like Enron. So how can parties get better at thinking?

I am keen to make contact with anyone who would be interested in exploring this question - either from within one of the political parties, or as an outside observer.

Related Posts
Political parties and organizational intelligence (June 2015) (August 2016)

Updated 25 June 2014

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