More than 100 million adults in the U.S. regularly used two or more social media sites in 2014. And for many, connecting online has eclipsed the telephone and face-to-face as a primary form of communication. But how effective is digital communication, especially when it comes to solving real-world problems?
Not as effective as it can be, says Erica Dhawan MBA ’12, who argues that these platforms need to better harness the “connectional intelligence” of its users and turn collective brainpower into meaningful actions.
“Connectional intelligence is the ability to combine knowledge into value and meaning,” Dhawan says. “It shifts the conversation around online engagement from quantity of connections to quality of connections.”
It’s an easy process to make “connections” online. Click here and get a new “friend;” click here to give a virtual thumb’s up. But the process lacks collaborative interaction, and as a result, makes no deep connection.
In a recent interview with Forbes, Dhawan cited examples such as Quirky, a New York startup that shortened the manufacturing process for new inventions from nearly three years to two months, and Martha Payne, a 9-year-old Scottish girl whose photography website launched a national debate about food quality in UK schools.
“How Connectional Intelligence Can Make You Successful,” Forbes:
“A lot of how we measure success in the digital world is about quantity. How many Facebook likes? How many clicks? how many Linkedin connections,” Dhawan says. “Don’t get too obsessed with how many Twitter followers you have or how many views a video gets. Connectional intelligence is about making the quality connections that translate into outcomes.”
“I worked on Wall St. during the financial crisis,” she says. “I was trying to find meaning in my own work, and when I looked around, there was a rising generation that wanted to use new forms of connectivity to truly solve problems.”
Dhawan spoke to Slice of MIT at the 2015 South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive festival, where discussed her book, Get Big Things Done: The Power of Connectional Intelligence, co-authored with Saj-nicole A. Joni. She is the founder and CEO or Cotential, a company that accelerates connectedness for businesses.
“Connectional intelligence is one of the most important skills to have in the 21st century,” Dhawan says. “It pools human wisdom and data and moves forward to solve real problems in areas like science, agriculture, and healthcare.”
Her connectional intelligence research has also helped dispel misconceptions about millennials, a burgeoning part of the U.S. workforce that see online connectivity as a native way of life.
“Millennials are not an age, they’re a mindset, and they’re a mindset that’s here to stay,” Dhawan says. “The rising generation of millennials has been raised in the age of connectivity. They’re a manifestation of the way that the world is changing, and part of a mindset shift of thinking in revolutionary ways.”
Dhawan was one of more than 100 MIT alumni who presented at the SXSW festival.
“MIT is a place where innovation is spawned,” she says. “There’s no doubt that MIT is the epicenter for innovation. And when we go out, we create in radical new ways. MIT’s amazing connectional intelligence leads to the creation of innovative ideas in radical new ways.”