As part of her Management section in May, Muriel Jaouën of Supply Chain Magazine interviewed Elisabeth Auzanneau, Partner of DIAGMA and Pierre Thuillier, Manager of DIAGMA on their definition, their practice and their convictions in terms of Collective Intelligence in the Supply Chain . Regularly mobilized in the projects that DIAGMA carries out with its customers to improve transverse Supply Chains, collective intelligence is an ability to cultivate every day to gain creativity and agility within Supply Chains and companies.

SCMAG: How do you define collective intelligence?

Elisabeth Auzanneau:  We can define collective intelligence as the ability to quickly mobilize the energies of a community to resolve a problem or answer a question as quickly. We go further in a business when collective intelligence is developed. Because it consists in integrating the skills of others to be more creative and more efficient. In fact, it is a process as much as a skill, and it can be cultivated.

SCMAG : Do you have examples of collective intelligence in the context of the Supply Chain?

E.A. : S&OP (Sales & Operations Planning) is a transversal decision-making process in the Supply Chain that involves various functions of the company, with interests that may differ. The aim is to make decisions in the general interest of the company. This process can be more or less effective depending on the degree of collective intelligence. Indeed, it is a question of properly coordinating the customer promise with what the Supply Chain will be able to serve. It is therefore necessary in particular to bring together sales and production. Likewise, if we want to set up a 24-hour delivery service, for example, salespeople must be aware of the constraints and costs of the Supply Chain. The challenge is to co-construct the offers that make the company successful. And in this case, developing collective intelligence makes it possible to go faster.

Pierre Thuillier : More broadly, in our missions, we work on transversal Supply Chains. And in all projects, we talk to people who have conflicting interests. In fact, it is our daily role to solicit this collective intelligence by putting people around the table!

SCMAG : Do you have tools to bring out this collective intelligence?

E.A: Brainstorming, for example, is a technique for developing collective intelligence. It’s a process of moving a working group forward. The principle is to concentrate energies, thoughts and individual resources in a common register. When you ask ten people to focus on a theme, according to an established convention, to generate ideas, it is very creative in a short time.

P.T .: The Bono Hats methodology is an illustration of this. It consists of working in groups by adopting various states of mind. For example, when we put on the black hat of the Pessimist, the group will look for all the good reasons not to change anything. Then, the other hats (Optimist, Neutrality, Organization…) will make it possible to list various arguments from various angles.

SCMAG : Do you have examples of customer applications?

P.T. : Yes. KIABI asked us to redefine its distribution network. Given the both strategic and transversal dimension of the issue, it seemed interesting to us to use collective intelligence at all levels of the company. We invited 30 to 40 people from various professions and functions (logistics, transport, IS, retail manager, business unit managers, sales directors, etc.) to phosphorate in groups of 6 to 8 people in the context of hackathons. This allowed us to develop scenarios that we would not have thought of. We proceeded in two one-day stages, separated by two weeks to give participants time to mature. And the second session was very productive, bringing new ideas.

SCMAG : Are there any prerequisites for successfully completing this type of workshop?

P.T. : The culture of the company is very important. For example, it is really in KIABI’s DNA to operate in multi-source and multi-skill working groups. Then, bringing people together in a friendly place, which takes them out of their daily lives, is a plus. You can also work remotely using new digital tools, but not without losing some non-verbal communication and the spontaneity that face-to-face body language brings.

SCMAG : Has the pandemic had an impact on business demand for collective intelligence?

E.A. : We have not had more requests formulated this way. But companies have realized that collective intelligence is a real lever for dealing with unprecedented situations and that developing it is a factor of agility. In this regard, the acceleration in the frequency of S&OP meetings (from monthly to bimonthly or weekly) shows that seeking collective intelligence more often is seen as a way of responding to greater uncertainty. My personal belief is that collective intelligence is not innate. She works herself. And the more an organization trains, the more it gets used to transversality and the more it is able to find creative responses and adapt quickly.