Collective Intelligence for Inclusive Innovation
As part of the SKEMA Hackathon, first-year students in SKEMA Business School’s MiM program used a collective intelligence platform to identify organizations’ diversity and inclusion challenges and propose solutions for fully inclusive organizations of the future.
Call to Action
The Hackathon is a staple workshop at SKEMA Business School’s Programme Grande Ecole (PGE) Master in Management. Its goal is to break students’ routines of working individually and to introduce teamwork for finding solutions to complex problems through innovation. This represents the very first activity for almost 800 first-year PGE students spread across Lille, Paris, and Sophia Antipolis.
This year, the theme of the Hackathon was the “inclusive organization.” Students had to identify problems and develop innovative solutions to improve the diversity and inclusion performance of organizations in France and globally. To achieve this, students shared and built on each other’s experiences with diversity and inclusion. As organizers of this workshop, we were worried that some students could not express themselves freely due to the sensitive nature of the topic.
Students who have just joined the school may be reluctant to participate in discussions—especially those from minority or underrepresented groups because they could worry that classmates misinterpret or misunderstand their contribution. To avoid potentially compromising relationships in the very first days, they may withhold valuable insights. To work around this, we employed digitization as an engine for inclusion, thanks to a collective intelligence platform.
The solution consisted of three modules developed a platform actively committed to civic technology. The first module consisted of a survey carried out on day one. It included a set of open-ended questions about students’ experiences with inclusion as well as students' opinions about what defines an inclusive organization. We performed a text-based analysis to identify major trends, and such an exercise allowed students to determine their understanding of inclusion—or lack thereof—before the workshop.
The second module consisted of a writing exercise where teams of students wrote 180 essays about an ideal future where organizations are fully inclusive. In doing so, students identified the specific problems to be solved to reach this ideal state. An algorithm-powered analysis of narratives allowed us to identify the most salient problems.
The third module consisted of a co-creation exercise. This exercise allowed students to prioritize problems by sharing and collecting feedback using pseudonyms in a safe space where they could express themselves freely. In total, students posted more than 12,000 messages. We analyzed these contributions and identified the most prominent dynamics, We presented the results to the students on the final day. One week after the conclusion of the Hackathon, we sent another survey to evaluate whether students improved their level of understanding.
The new platform influenced the workshop in three ways: First, students worked more on the topic of the Hackathon—diversity and inclusion. The three modules engaged students and pushed them to reflect beforehand. Across our campuses, coaches with several years of experience in the Hackathon found students to be more prepared and motivated than in the past.
Second, the students’ expression was more inclusive. They could choose one module over the others to express themselves according to their preferences. While some students favored writing long essays in the fiction module where they expressed views about a utopian or dystopian future, others preferred to engage in conversations with their peers in the co-construction module.
Third, it truly gave the students a voice. We analyzed student submissions and created an executive summary about their combined perception of problems related to inclusion, and formulated a set of recommendations that we used internally and externally. Furthermore, we built on the insights from last year to design and formally test the proposition that an anonymous platform increases diversity expression. Overall, the collective intelligence platform was an inclusive tool that helped create a suitable learning environment for students of all backgrounds and inclinations.