Using Digital Nudges To Enhance Collective Intelligence In Online Collaboration: Insights From Unexpected Outcomes.

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The dramatic expansion of internet communication tools has led to the increased use of temporary online groups to solve problems, provide services, or produce new knowledge. However, many of these groups need help to collaborate effectively. The rapid development of new tools and collaboration forms requires ongoing experimentation to develop and test new ways to support this novel form of teamwork. Building on research demonstrating the use of nudges to shape behavior, we report the results of an experiment to nudge teamwork in 168 temporary online groups randomly assigned to one of four different nudge treatments. Each nudge was designed to spur one of three targeted collaborative processes (collaborator skill use, effective task strategy, and the level of collective effort) demonstrated to enhance collective intelligence in extant research. Our results support the basic notion that digitally nudging collaborative processes can improve collective intelligence. However, to our surprise, a couple of nudges had unintended negative effects and ultimately decreased collective intelligence. We discuss our results using structured speculation to systematically consider the conditions under which we would or would not expect the same patterns to materialize in order to clearly articulate directions for future research.

Ryan Watkins