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Maverick AI: exponential connections

Maverick AI: how connections between people add exponential intelligence. Socialised Mavericks [1] know how to use connections between people in an intentional way, to achieve extraordinary results.

In recent articles for the Maverick Paradox Magazine, I described how Maverick leaders can put relationships to work in an intentional way (see here), as well as using inclusive behaviours to make diversity in teams work to achieve better outcomes (see here).

Tied up to this is a fundamental property that occurs when we create connections in this way: they have the potential not just to add to the results, but to increase results exponentially. Collaboration gurus Max Isaac and Anton McBurnie call this effect “team synergy” [2]

Imagine four engineers coming together to work on a knotty problem. If they are working ineffectively, then eventually one of them might come to the realisation that the output isn’t worth the effort: “I might as well do this myself”. Let’s set aside for the moment the real considerations about what that might do to everyone’s working relationships, or the learning of members new to the team – basically the conclusion here is something like this:

(1 + 1 + 1 + 1) equals not much more than 1

Not a great team result!

Now let’s add some socialised maverick leadership to this team. He or she is really determined to get a good output and to bring everyone along with them. They really listen carefully to everyone, ask them to build on each other’s ideas, throw in some new ones of their own. Our maverick leader might even say, “you know, we’re not getting where we need to doing it this way, we need to think about this another way” – the team sticks at it. Eventually someone say – “you know, I was thinking about that comment a few minutes ago – it wasn’t quite on the money but if we did this … and that … and maybe this …” – and someone else goes “go on … you’re onto something here … and we could do that …”

What has happened here is that the team has not simply got to a result that is the sum of the parts. It’s more fundamental than that. They have achieved something that none of them could have achieved without the rest of the team.

Let’s use the analogy of Artificial Intelligence. One processor can only do so much work. So we add a second processor. What do we get?

Well for a start, we have doubled the processing power (not quite – because both now have to give a significant part of their processing time over to communicating with the other processor!).

So we could process twice as much, or the same amount twice as quickly. Maverick AI: exponential connections.

There’s more. The second processor also has a memory store, so we have extra data. We have more to process, and more possible combinations to consider – in other words, a wider range of possible solutions (just like that example we talked about with diversity in teams). In fact, if we kept adding processors, the amount of possible data combinations doesn’t increase arithmetically, it increases exponentially!

If we apply this to our four engineers: the number of possible combinations when we go from 1 to 4 people doesn’t increase four-fold, it increases six-fold. In fact, if we had six, it would be 15 fold! Quite an expansion!

In this exponentially intelligent system called a team, there are rules we need to establish to be able to access this processing power, such as:

  1. All the processors need to turn up and be 100% on full power
  2. All the processors have to be able to use all the other processors (and it helps to know what sort of processing characteristics each one has)
  3. We have to access each other’s data
  4. We need an operating system to harness our processing in an effective and efficient way – we can’t just all process stuff randomly and all at once
  5. The balance between individual processing, pairs processing and pooling the results is complex and needs to be monitored and adjusted

We have a word for this with teams – we call them ground rules. And here’s another:

  1. Periodically, we have to stop processing and check that the team is creating the output we wanted (that might include changing the process, the ground rules, adding a processor, letting a processor recharge its batteries …)

Notice that this doesn’t happen by chance, it happens by design. The potential is for an exponentially greater result than just the sum of the people present – team synergy. That’s a really high pay-off – and it is one of the main reasons that I believe teams are the natural unit of getting stuff done in organisations.

Maverick AI: exponential connections

By the way – the exponential effect starts to drop off when teams get beyond 5 people, and that is even more noticeable in virtual teams. That’s when teams need to break into smaller units, and teams start collaborating with other teams – and that’s maybe an article for another day!


[1] Germain, J (2017): “The Maverick Paradox: The Secret Power Behind Successful Leaders, PublishNation

[2] Isaac, M. & McBurnie, A. (2015): “Close the Interaction Gap”, Bridge Publishing

Patrick Ballin
Patrick Ballinhttps://www.mileone.co.uk
Patrick Ballin is a socialised maverick in conformist clothing. He works as an executive, team and career coach with charity and private sector clients throughout Europe as well as North America, Latin America, Asia and the Middle East. He completed advanced coaching training at Ashridge Business School, spent 10 years as a visiting lecturer at Brighton Business School and was awarded a National HEA Teaching Fellowship in 2018. Patrick has led accreditation programmes for Belbin Associates in the UK and North America, is a Fellow of the RSA and holds an MA in Natural Sciences from the University of Cambridge. Before starting his coaching practice, Patrick worked in managerial positions in the personal computer industry and went on to become Global Head of Supply Chain and Logistics Development at The Body Shop International plc. He is a Trustee for the prisoner befriending charity LifeLines, a past Trustee of The Body Shop Foundation and a pro bono coach for On Purpose.

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